20200
P
1
20100
R  E
2
2070
D   I   C
3
2050
T   I   O   N
4
2040
S   F   O   R   J
5
2030
O  U  R  N  A  L
6
2020
I  S  M  2  0  2  0
7

The rise of the journalistic influencer

“How the hell are we going to empower citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing if they’re too bored to even bother?”

How many mistakes are in the pages of The New York Times every day? I counted seven this morning, and that’s to be expected. Journalism is a human practice, and it will always include human error. What we need more of is virtuous risk-taking to the end of hooking people’s attention. In other words, how the hell are we going to empower citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing if they’re too bored to even bother?

Part of the job of the journalist is to make the significant interesting, and experimentation to this end will have its most exciting results through individuals who are able to establish a foundation of trust as guides to the great American dumpster fire. In 2020 and beyond, I hope to see the rise of the journalistic influencer: those who work to entertain the public with utmost allegiance to truth, motivated by the goal of establishing equitable public power.

This sort of risk-taking is dangerous — but, well, so was the Times’ coverage of Hillary’s emails. In order for journalism to evolve and, indeed, in order for democracy to persevere, we need to make more good mistakes.

In my book, How to Start a Revolution: Young People and the Future of American Politics, I introduce extensive research and reporting through personal narrative sprinkled with comedy. Despite multiple rounds of editing and fact-checking, I’m quite sure I’ve messed up in those pages, and I’ve certainly messed up while cracking jokes on my Twitter feed. I’ve also recently taken risks with a premature obituary for Mitch McConnell’s career (intended to outline the baldly anti-democratic nature of his obstructionism) and a satirical piece about Elizabeth Warren’s political evolution (meant to expose the perverse incentive structure of progressivism as it is compounded by misogyny).

Perhaps the former was too gimmicky. There were poor, unfortunate souls who read the latter and thought it was written in earnest. Still, I maintain that these risks were virtuous in that my goal was to empower people with information. I believe part of my journalistic obligation is to make the significant interesting. I am 100 percent serious when I say I believe it is part of my journalistic duty to entertain.

I’ve received some criticism that amounts to saying I am using my platform “for attention.” While I’m irked by the inherent sexism of that critique, I must admit it’s essentially correct: What’s the point of being a writer if not to get people to engage with your ideas? It is absolutely my goal to “get attention,” in order to get as many readers as possible to feel so empowered with information as to insist on their right and duty to the political conversation.

This is how I have chosen to use my platform as an “influencer.” I hear that word used with derision, but I take no offense at the assertion that I am influencing the culture. What’s troubling is the stigma of frivolity around the term. There are scammers, to be sure, and altogether too many Instagram celebrities selling that tea that makes you shit. But there is also democratic potential in the advent of the influencer.

It seems to me that readers connect most often with individual thinkers rather than the publications they write for. If we can see more journalists aspire to build large platforms, and see more of those who already have them insist on operating out of duty to citizens, there is an opportunity to build a model of ethical influencing that expands into a broader journalistic culture in which citizens comprehend the purpose of the journalist and their personal duty to empower themselves with information.

It is endlessly clear that our democratic crisis is also an epistemic one. Individual minds are trapped in feedback loops, and no two bubbles are the same. The solution to this fractured reality requires citizens to invest in media diets maintained through the constant rigor of critical thinking. Indeed, not everyone is a journalist, but anyone can be a journalist, and I believe we should all operate as journalists in interacting with the onslaught of content, verifying information, and always asking questions, both of authority and of ourselves.

The only truly certain prediction for journalism in 2020 is that mistakes will be made — so let’s make some good ones.

Lauren Duca is a freelance journalist.

How many mistakes are in the pages of The New York Times every day? I counted seven this morning, and that’s to be expected. Journalism is a human practice, and it will always include human error. What we need more of is virtuous risk-taking to the end of hooking people’s attention. In other words, how the hell are we going to empower citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing if they’re too bored to even bother?

Part of the job of the journalist is to make the significant interesting, and experimentation to this end will have its most exciting results through individuals who are able to establish a foundation of trust as guides to the great American dumpster fire. In 2020 and beyond, I hope to see the rise of the journalistic influencer: those who work to entertain the public with utmost allegiance to truth, motivated by the goal of establishing equitable public power.

This sort of risk-taking is dangerous — but, well, so was the Times’ coverage of Hillary’s emails. In order for journalism to evolve and, indeed, in order for democracy to persevere, we need to make more good mistakes.

In my book, How to Start a Revolution: Young People and the Future of American Politics, I introduce extensive research and reporting through personal narrative sprinkled with comedy. Despite multiple rounds of editing and fact-checking, I’m quite sure I’ve messed up in those pages, and I’ve certainly messed up while cracking jokes on my Twitter feed. I’ve also recently taken risks with a premature obituary for Mitch McConnell’s career (intended to outline the baldly anti-democratic nature of his obstructionism) and a satirical piece about Elizabeth Warren’s political evolution (meant to expose the perverse incentive structure of progressivism as it is compounded by misogyny).

Perhaps the former was too gimmicky. There were poor, unfortunate souls who read the latter and thought it was written in earnest. Still, I maintain that these risks were virtuous in that my goal was to empower people with information. I believe part of my journalistic obligation is to make the significant interesting. I am 100 percent serious when I say I believe it is part of my journalistic duty to entertain.

I’ve received some criticism that amounts to saying I am using my platform “for attention.” While I’m irked by the inherent sexism of that critique, I must admit it’s essentially correct: What’s the point of being a writer if not to get people to engage with your ideas? It is absolutely my goal to “get attention,” in order to get as many readers as possible to feel so empowered with information as to insist on their right and duty to the political conversation.

This is how I have chosen to use my platform as an “influencer.” I hear that word used with derision, but I take no offense at the assertion that I am influencing the culture. What’s troubling is the stigma of frivolity around the term. There are scammers, to be sure, and altogether too many Instagram celebrities selling that tea that makes you shit. But there is also democratic potential in the advent of the influencer.

It seems to me that readers connect most often with individual thinkers rather than the publications they write for. If we can see more journalists aspire to build large platforms, and see more of those who already have them insist on operating out of duty to citizens, there is an opportunity to build a model of ethical influencing that expands into a broader journalistic culture in which citizens comprehend the purpose of the journalist and their personal duty to empower themselves with information.

It is endlessly clear that our democratic crisis is also an epistemic one. Individual minds are trapped in feedback loops, and no two bubbles are the same. The solution to this fractured reality requires citizens to invest in media diets maintained through the constant rigor of critical thinking. Indeed, not everyone is a journalist, but anyone can be a journalist, and I believe we should all operate as journalists in interacting with the onslaught of content, verifying information, and always asking questions, both of authority and of ourselves.

The only truly certain prediction for journalism in 2020 is that mistakes will be made — so let’s make some good ones.

Lauren Duca is a freelance journalist.

Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

Jim Brady   We’ll complain about other people living in bubbles while ignoring our own

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

Jeremy Gilbert and Jarrod Dicker   A call for collaboration between storytelling and tech

Matthew Pressman   News consumers divide into haves and have-nots

Jennifer Brandel   A love letter from the year 2073

Sonali Prasad   Climate change storytelling gets multidimensional

Lucas Graves   A smarter conversation about how (and why) fact-checking matters

Tamar Charney   From broadcast to bespoke

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

Rachel Davis Mersey   The business of local TV news will enter its downward slide

Millie Tran   Wicked

Mariana Moura Santos   The future of journalism is collaborative

Christa Scharfenberg   It’s time to make journalism a field that supports and respects women

Bill Adair   A Nobel Prize, a Brad Pitt film, and a Taylor Swift song

Joe Amditis   Collaborative journalism takes its rightful place at the table

Logan Jaffe   You don’t need fancy tools to listen

L. Gordon Crovitz   Fighting misinformation requires journalism, not secret algorithms

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

Irving Washington   Leadership isn’t something you learn on the job

Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

Linda Solomon Wood   Everyone in your organization, moving toward a common goal

Joanne McNeil   A return to blogs (finally? sort of?)

Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

Nico Gendron   Make better products if you want to reach Gen Z

Josh Schwartz   Publishers move beyond the metered paywall

Margarita Noriega   The platforms try to figure out what to do with single-subject newsrooms

Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

Talia Stroud   The work of reconnecting starts November 4

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young   The promise of nonprofit journalism

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

Mike Caulfield   Native verification tools for the blue checkmark crowd

Carrie Brown-Smith   Engaged journalism: It’s finally happening

Matt DeRienzo   Local broadcasters begin to fill the gaps left by newspapers

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting finally creates another mega-hit show

Nikki Usher   All systems down

Meg Marco   Everything happens somewhere

Kevin Douglas Grant   The free press stands against authoritarians’ attacks on truth

Sarah Stonbely   More people start caring about news inequality

Francesco Zaffarano   TikTok without generational prejudice

Jasmine McNealy   A call for context

A.J. Bauer   A fork in the road for conservative media

Joshua Darr   All that campaign cash will make the media’s problems worse

Ernie Smith   The death of the industry fad

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The business we want, not the business we had

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

Imaeyen Ibanga   Let’s take it slow

Dan Shanoff   Sports media enters the Bronny era

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Rick Berke   Incoming fire from both left and right

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

Madelyn Sanfilippo and Yafit Lev-Aretz   News coverage gets geo-fragmented

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

Nathalie Malinarich   Betting on loyalty

Felix Salmon   Spotify launches a news channel

M. Scott Havens   First-party data becomes media’s most important currency

An Xiao Mina   The Forum we wanted, the forum we got

Raney Aronson-Rath   News deserts will proliferate — but so will new solutions

Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

Hossein Derakhshan   AI can’t conjure up an Errol Morris

Elizabeth Dunbar   Frank talk, and then action

Simon Galperin   Journalism becomes more democratic

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting gets listener relationship management

Tanya Cordrey   Saying no to more good ideas

Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Jeff Kofman   Speed through technology

Doris Truong   The year of radical salary transparency

Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

Bill Grueskin   Our ethics codes get an overhaul

Errin Haines   Race and gender aren’t a 2020 story — they’re the story

Sarah Alvarez   I’m ready for post-news

Richard J. Tofel   A constraint of the reader-revenue model emerges

Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

Marie Gilot   This is fine

james Wahutu   Western journalists, learn from your African peers

Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

Jonas Kaiser   Russian bots are just today’s slacktivists

Dannagal G. Young   Let’s disrupt the logic that’s driving Americans apart

Michael W. Wagner   Increasingly fractured, but little bit deliberative

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, collaboration in a time of state attacks

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

Laura E. Davis   Know the context your journalism is operating within

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   A changing industry amps up podcasters’ ambitions

Brenda P. Salinas   Treating MP3 files like text

Ståle Grut   OSINT journalism goes mainstream

John Garrett   It’s the best time in a century to start a local news organization

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

Kourtney Bitterly   Transparency isn’t just a desire, it’s an expectation

Joni Deutsch   Podcasting unsilences the silent

Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

Nushin Rashidian   Are platforms a bridge or a lifeline?

Julia B. Chan   We 👏 take 👏 breaks 👏

Nicholas Jackson   What’s left of local gets comfortable with reader support

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

Rachel Schallom   The value of push alerts goes beyond open rates

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

S. Mitra Kalita   The race to 2021

Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

Zizi Papacharissi   A president leads, the press follows, reality fades

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

Cindy Royal   Prepare media students for skills, not job titles

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

Pablo Boczkowski   The day after November 4

Mary Walter-Brown and Tristan Loper   Power to the people (on your audience team)

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

Mario García   Think small (screen)

Peter Bale   Lies get further normalized

Rachel Glickhouse   Journalists get left behind in the industry’s decline

Barbara Gray   Join local libraries on the frontlines of civic engagement

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

Knight Foundation   Five generations of journalists, learning from each other

Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

Elizabeth Hansen and Jesse Holcomb   Local news initiatives run into a capital shortage

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Cory Haik   We’re already consuming the future of news — now we have to produce it

Colleen Shalby   Journalists become media literacy teachers