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

Western journalists, learn from your African peers

“This is not to suggest that media organizations in these countries have cracked the code. Instead, it’s about recognizing that there is useful knowledge about how to work under hostile regimes in African media markets.”

In late 2016 and early 2017, I wrote a couple of pieces about journalists tweeting and the illusion of objectivity that media organizations were so keen to maintain and sell to us. Three years on, I look back at those pieces with both amazement and dismay at the fact that I am about to echo those very sentiments here. But here we are: As 2019 wraps up, we are in the midst of vacuous coverage of political events in both the United States and the U.K.

In the U.S., fall 2019 saw a media consumed with concerns that the congressional testimonies lacked “pizzazz,” as if this were the Kentucky Derby. There was also the fascinating story of CBS giving airtime to an InfoWars host as if he was Johnny off the street. Not to forget CBS engaging in the worst forms of whitewashing in a story about sexual assault of a correspondent on caught on camera. In the U.K., the BBC has found itself under fire over the way it covered Brexit politics, especially in the run-up to the just concluded elections. There was also the much covered (and absolutely false) story of a politico walking into a protestor’s outstretched arm being framed, with much gusto, as him being punched.

So yes, 2019 is ending pretty much as it started, with media organizations ignoring the winds of change sweeping through the political landscape. Bob Marley captures the futility of this best in “Natural Mystic.”

While I think not much will change in 2020, I’ll take a different approach to my prediction — focusing on what I hope media organizations in the U.S. and the U.K. will do. I hope that when it comes to covering political issues, journalists and organizations tap into the global south’s expertise on how to do this work within a hostile environment.

It’s time for media organizations to realize that the terrain has shifted, and they are no longer at the pinnacle of journalism holding of political elites to account. I hope they realize the necessity of borrowing a leaf from journalists in regions such as Africa. What media organizations and journalists are going through now has been the reality for African organizations since Nnamdi Azikiwe’s West African Pilot and Thomas Mboya and Kwame Nkrumah’s elucidations of what it meant to be a postcolonial journalist.

With this in mind, perhaps they’ll seek out journalists and editors from Kenya to discuss how to provide useful political coverage, as the latter did in the 1990s and have been doing under the current regime. Or talk to Mozambican and Angolan journalists who continue to hold power to account at the risk of being jailed or killed. Why not speak to Nigerian journalists who continue to be prosecuted and persecuted? Doing so may yield better journalism rather than the current state of affairs, where the focus is on how to make serious issues (such as impeachment) more glamorous. Pizzazz has replaced explaining to audiences what congressional testimonies mean — for the American polity and for the future of this country.

This is not to suggest that media organizations in these countries have cracked the code. Instead, it’s about recognizing that there is useful knowledge about how to work under hostile regimes in African media markets. It’s about moving away from the “we are the best” bubble of journalism that has existed in American and British media for a long time. It’s about having the humility to learn from others in the pursuit of being good stewards of this thing we call democracy.

Stewardship takes more than fancy slogans about democracy dying in darkness. I would argue, based on experience and research, that democracy dies when media organizations allow themselves to be co-opted by the state in the name of access. It disappears when the media settles for short-term gratification (clicks and views) while populating coverage with highly questionable framing of political maleficence or sexual assault. It is chipped away when media insists on not calling out ills such as sexual assault and electoral shenanigans for what they are, while playing a game of footsie with disinformation.

There has to be a recognition that the hunter has learned to shoot without missing — and therefore news organizations and journalists must learn how to fly without perching.

james Wahutu is an assistant professor at NYU’s Media, Culture, and Communication.

In late 2016 and early 2017, I wrote a couple of pieces about journalists tweeting and the illusion of objectivity that media organizations were so keen to maintain and sell to us. Three years on, I look back at those pieces with both amazement and dismay at the fact that I am about to echo those very sentiments here. But here we are: As 2019 wraps up, we are in the midst of vacuous coverage of political events in both the United States and the U.K.

In the U.S., fall 2019 saw a media consumed with concerns that the congressional testimonies lacked “pizzazz,” as if this were the Kentucky Derby. There was also the fascinating story of CBS giving airtime to an InfoWars host as if he was Johnny off the street. Not to forget CBS engaging in the worst forms of whitewashing in a story about sexual assault of a correspondent on caught on camera. In the U.K., the BBC has found itself under fire over the way it covered Brexit politics, especially in the run-up to the just concluded elections. There was also the much covered (and absolutely false) story of a politico walking into a protestor’s outstretched arm being framed, with much gusto, as him being punched.

So yes, 2019 is ending pretty much as it started, with media organizations ignoring the winds of change sweeping through the political landscape. Bob Marley captures the futility of this best in “Natural Mystic.”

While I think not much will change in 2020, I’ll take a different approach to my prediction — focusing on what I hope media organizations in the U.S. and the U.K. will do. I hope that when it comes to covering political issues, journalists and organizations tap into the global south’s expertise on how to do this work within a hostile environment.

It’s time for media organizations to realize that the terrain has shifted, and they are no longer at the pinnacle of journalism holding of political elites to account. I hope they realize the necessity of borrowing a leaf from journalists in regions such as Africa. What media organizations and journalists are going through now has been the reality for African organizations since Nnamdi Azikiwe’s West African Pilot and Thomas Mboya and Kwame Nkrumah’s elucidations of what it meant to be a postcolonial journalist.

With this in mind, perhaps they’ll seek out journalists and editors from Kenya to discuss how to provide useful political coverage, as the latter did in the 1990s and have been doing under the current regime. Or talk to Mozambican and Angolan journalists who continue to hold power to account at the risk of being jailed or killed. Why not speak to Nigerian journalists who continue to be prosecuted and persecuted? Doing so may yield better journalism rather than the current state of affairs, where the focus is on how to make serious issues (such as impeachment) more glamorous. Pizzazz has replaced explaining to audiences what congressional testimonies mean — for the American polity and for the future of this country.

This is not to suggest that media organizations in these countries have cracked the code. Instead, it’s about recognizing that there is useful knowledge about how to work under hostile regimes in African media markets. It’s about moving away from the “we are the best” bubble of journalism that has existed in American and British media for a long time. It’s about having the humility to learn from others in the pursuit of being good stewards of this thing we call democracy.

Stewardship takes more than fancy slogans about democracy dying in darkness. I would argue, based on experience and research, that democracy dies when media organizations allow themselves to be co-opted by the state in the name of access. It disappears when the media settles for short-term gratification (clicks and views) while populating coverage with highly questionable framing of political maleficence or sexual assault. It is chipped away when media insists on not calling out ills such as sexual assault and electoral shenanigans for what they are, while playing a game of footsie with disinformation.

There has to be a recognition that the hunter has learned to shoot without missing — and therefore news organizations and journalists must learn how to fly without perching.

james Wahutu is an assistant professor at NYU’s Media, Culture, and Communication.

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

Dan Shanoff   Sports media enters the Bronny era

Jonas Kaiser   Russian bots are just today’s slacktivists

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

Elizabeth Dunbar   Frank talk, and then action

Cindy Royal   Prepare media students for skills, not job titles

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

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

Josh Schwartz   Publishers move beyond the metered paywall

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

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

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

Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

Pablo Boczkowski   The day after November 4

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young   The promise of nonprofit journalism

Jasmine McNealy   A call for context

Nathalie Malinarich   Betting on loyalty

Peter Bale   Lies get further normalized

Felix Salmon   Spotify launches a news channel

Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

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

james Wahutu   Western journalists, learn from your African peers

Joni Deutsch   Podcasting unsilences the silent

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

Francesco Zaffarano   TikTok without generational prejudice

Nushin Rashidian   Are platforms a bridge or a lifeline?

Mariana Moura Santos   The future of journalism is collaborative

Julia B. Chan   We 👏 take 👏 breaks 👏

Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

Tamar Charney   From broadcast to bespoke

Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

Michael W. Wagner   Increasingly fractured, but little bit deliberative

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

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

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

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

Ståle Grut   OSINT journalism goes mainstream

Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

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

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

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

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting gets listener relationship management

Jennifer Brandel   A love letter from the year 2073

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

Rachel Schallom   The value of push alerts goes beyond open rates

Joe Amditis   Collaborative journalism takes its rightful place at the table

Sarah Alvarez   I’m ready for post-news

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

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

Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

Barbara Gray   Join local libraries on the frontlines of civic engagement

Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

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

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

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

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

Bill Grueskin   Our ethics codes get an overhaul

Matthew Pressman   News consumers divide into haves and have-nots

Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

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

Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

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

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

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

Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

Sonali Prasad   Climate change storytelling gets multidimensional

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

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

Millie Tran   Wicked

Logan Jaffe   You don’t need fancy tools to listen

Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

Talia Stroud   The work of reconnecting starts November 4

Jeff Kofman   Speed through technology

Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

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

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Tanya Cordrey   Saying no to more good ideas

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

Marie Gilot   This is fine

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

Imaeyen Ibanga   Let’s take it slow

Sarah Stonbely   More people start caring about news inequality

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

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting finally creates another mega-hit show

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

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

Meg Marco   Everything happens somewhere

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

Hossein Derakhshan   AI can’t conjure up an Errol Morris

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

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

Doris Truong   The year of radical salary transparency

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

S. Mitra Kalita   The race to 2021

Mario García   Think small (screen)

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

Simon Galperin   Journalism becomes more democratic

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

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

Colleen Shalby   Journalists become media literacy teachers

Knight Foundation   Five generations of journalists, learning from each other

Brenda P. Salinas   Treating MP3 files like text

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

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

Nikki Usher   All systems down

Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

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

Rick Berke   Incoming fire from both left and right

Mike Caulfield   Native verification tools for the blue checkmark crowd

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

Ernie Smith   The death of the industry fad

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

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

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

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