Journalism gets fused with art

“Empathy — putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, a natural product of journalism — is now limited by our screens.”

Here we are, experiencing loss together, but we can’t gather. I can FaceTime you; I can text you puppy photos. But this process makes us that much more dependent on the phones we use for work, life, doomscrolling, and the other pandemic realities we desperately want to escape.

It’s like an apocalyptic movie where the credits never roll. And we’re still sitting there, staring at the screen.

We’re pushing journalism into that same 2-D world. When people finish consuming our work, much of it hard and depressing this year, they sit in their sadness, alone, that screen their only companion. Empathy — putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, a natural product of journalism — is now limited by our screens. Empathizing together is difficult, and it can often feel forced or exhausting. That’s a tough new normal, especially for those of us with “engagement” or “community” or “audience” in our job titles.

In 2021, I predict that more of the creative among us will turn to art to go beyond screens that will never be big enough.

When we tie our journalism to art, stories feel bigger than just you and your screen. Art naturally connects an audience that’s consuming something together: theatergoers, book clubs, music festival fanatics, crowds at comedy shows, dances, movie theaters, art galleries. The togetherness art brings — even if it’s brief — makes our work finally feel 3-D again, almost like a hug. Art is access, and it feels impactful when the communities we’re reporting on can access our work. I believe art makes our journalism better. I’ve been lucky to find myself as both a journalism–art organizer and observer this year. Here’s how the magic happens.

As an organizer

It was July, and artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities were sharing monologues with me — personal and deep — and even though I’d seen them in practice run-throughs, I was tearing up.

In that moment, I almost forgot we were on Zoom and that others were watching with me. The event was with ProPublica Local Reporting Network partner the Arizona Daily Star, part of reporter Amy Silverman’s investigation into services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Arizona.

We’d been collaborating with Detour Company Theatre, a group that works with people who have cognitive and physical disabilities, and Rebecca Monteleone, an assistant professor in the disability studies program at the University of Toledo. Most of the performers workshopped their monologues with Monteleone in a storytelling course this summer.

Attendees were applauding the performers in the chat, and about 10 people shared their own stories with our team during the event. Live performance does this: We get bound together in shared experience.

The art from the summer helped me realize the importance of community accessibility, to the point that I recorded eight audio stories with a homemade audio setup when Part 1 of the investigation launched this year. That reading felt like its own kind of art, which I talked about in a Twitter thread here. In each story I recorded, I thought about the community: who it was for, why I was doing it — theater, but also journalism. Monteleone translated reporting into plain language, and we had a Spanish translation of the main story, too.

As an observer

The journalism–art community Venn diagram is everywhere. My colleague Shoshana Gordon worked with Make Studio in Baltimore to commission illustrations of people featured in the disability investigation, created by people with disabilities. Mona Chalabi’s data journalism is also art (I often find it on Instagram). This mural of COVID frontline workers at Domino Park in Brooklyn made me stop and reflect. Writer and artist Mari Andrew’s Instagram art is filled with slices of navigating pandemic life. After my colleagues at the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica published a series of portraits and stories from sexual assault survivors in Alaska, the Anchorage Museum displayed those portraits and audio clips on the museum’s facade as a public installation. Hasan Minhaj’s monologue “We Cannot Stay Silent About George Floyd” inspired me to start writing my personal stories (as his work always does). And of course, The City’s incredible three-day virtual event memorializing New Yorkers lost to the coronavirus, which included poetry readings and workshops. During the event, I caught a performance from actors inspired by obituaries and felt that familiar pang in my heart, the goosebumps.

Most of these stories, I accessed through a screen. But they all felt 3-D to me.

Beena Raghavendran is an engagement reporter for ProPublica.

Here we are, experiencing loss together, but we can’t gather. I can FaceTime you; I can text you puppy photos. But this process makes us that much more dependent on the phones we use for work, life, doomscrolling, and the other pandemic realities we desperately want to escape.

It’s like an apocalyptic movie where the credits never roll. And we’re still sitting there, staring at the screen.

We’re pushing journalism into that same 2-D world. When people finish consuming our work, much of it hard and depressing this year, they sit in their sadness, alone, that screen their only companion. Empathy — putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, a natural product of journalism — is now limited by our screens. Empathizing together is difficult, and it can often feel forced or exhausting. That’s a tough new normal, especially for those of us with “engagement” or “community” or “audience” in our job titles.

In 2021, I predict that more of the creative among us will turn to art to go beyond screens that will never be big enough.

When we tie our journalism to art, stories feel bigger than just you and your screen. Art naturally connects an audience that’s consuming something together: theatergoers, book clubs, music festival fanatics, crowds at comedy shows, dances, movie theaters, art galleries. The togetherness art brings — even if it’s brief — makes our work finally feel 3-D again, almost like a hug. Art is access, and it feels impactful when the communities we’re reporting on can access our work. I believe art makes our journalism better. I’ve been lucky to find myself as both a journalism–art organizer and observer this year. Here’s how the magic happens.

As an organizer

It was July, and artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities were sharing monologues with me — personal and deep — and even though I’d seen them in practice run-throughs, I was tearing up.

In that moment, I almost forgot we were on Zoom and that others were watching with me. The event was with ProPublica Local Reporting Network partner the Arizona Daily Star, part of reporter Amy Silverman’s investigation into services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Arizona.

We’d been collaborating with Detour Company Theatre, a group that works with people who have cognitive and physical disabilities, and Rebecca Monteleone, an assistant professor in the disability studies program at the University of Toledo. Most of the performers workshopped their monologues with Monteleone in a storytelling course this summer.

Attendees were applauding the performers in the chat, and about 10 people shared their own stories with our team during the event. Live performance does this: We get bound together in shared experience.

The art from the summer helped me realize the importance of community accessibility, to the point that I recorded eight audio stories with a homemade audio setup when Part 1 of the investigation launched this year. That reading felt like its own kind of art, which I talked about in a Twitter thread here. In each story I recorded, I thought about the community: who it was for, why I was doing it — theater, but also journalism. Monteleone translated reporting into plain language, and we had a Spanish translation of the main story, too.

As an observer

The journalism–art community Venn diagram is everywhere. My colleague Shoshana Gordon worked with Make Studio in Baltimore to commission illustrations of people featured in the disability investigation, created by people with disabilities. Mona Chalabi’s data journalism is also art (I often find it on Instagram). This mural of COVID frontline workers at Domino Park in Brooklyn made me stop and reflect. Writer and artist Mari Andrew’s Instagram art is filled with slices of navigating pandemic life. After my colleagues at the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica published a series of portraits and stories from sexual assault survivors in Alaska, the Anchorage Museum displayed those portraits and audio clips on the museum’s facade as a public installation. Hasan Minhaj’s monologue “We Cannot Stay Silent About George Floyd” inspired me to start writing my personal stories (as his work always does). And of course, The City’s incredible three-day virtual event memorializing New Yorkers lost to the coronavirus, which included poetry readings and workshops. During the event, I caught a performance from actors inspired by obituaries and felt that familiar pang in my heart, the goosebumps.

Most of these stories, I accessed through a screen. But they all felt 3-D to me.

Beena Raghavendran is an engagement reporter for ProPublica.

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

Shaydanay Urbani and Nancy Watzman   Local collaboration is key to slowing misinformation

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

Raney Aronson-Rath   To get past information divides, we need to understand them first

Rishad Patel   From direct-to-consumer to direct-to-believers

Alyssa Zeisler   Holistic medicine for journalism

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

Sue Cross   A global consensus around the kind of news we need to save

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting dodged a bullet in 2020, but 2021 will be harder

Ray Soto   The news gets spatial

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

C.W. Anderson   Journalism changed under Trump — will it keep changing under Biden?

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

Mike Caulfield   2021’s misinformation will look a lot like 2020’s (and 2019’s, and…)

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

Nonny de la Pena   News reaches the third dimension

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

María Sánchez Díez   Traffic will plummet — and it’ll be ok

Rachel Glickhouse   Journalists will be kinder to each other — and to themselves

Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

Sam Ford   We’ll find better ways to archive our work

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

Ben Collins   We need to learn how to talk to (and about) accidental conspiracists

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

Zainab Khan   From understanding to feeling

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

Astead W. Herndon   The Trump-sized window of the media caring about race closes again

José Zamora   Walking the talk on diversity

Burt Herman   Journalists build post-Facebook digital communities

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

Logan Jaffe   History as a reporting tool

Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky and Cassie Haynes   A shift from conversation to action

Gordon Crovitz   Common law will finally apply to the Internet

Jer Thorp   Fewer pixels, more cardboard

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

Richard Tofel   Less on politics, more on how government works (or doesn’t)

Michael W. Wagner   Fractured democracy, fractured journalism

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

Kristen Muller   Engaged journalism scales

Alfred Hermida and Oscar Westlund   The virus ups data journalism’s game

Jessica Clark   News becomes plural

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

Heidi Tworek   A year of news mocktails

Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

Sonali Prasad   Making disaster journalism that cuts through the noise

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

Nabiha Syed   Newsrooms quit their toxic relationships

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

Ariane Bernard   Going solo is still only a path for the few

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

Janet Haven and Sam Hinds   Is this an AI newsroom?

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

Aaron Foley   Diversity gains haven’t shown up in local news

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability

Sumi Aggarwal   News literacy programs aren’t child’s play

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

Nikki Usher   Don’t expect an antitrust dividend for the media

Ashton Lattimore   Remote work helps level the playing field in an insular industry

Loretta Chao   Open up the profession

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

Benjamin Toff   Beltway reporting gets normal again, for better and for worse

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

Julia B. Chan and Kim Bui   Millennials are ready to run things

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

Annie Rudd   Newsrooms grow less comfortable with the “view from above”

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

An Xiao Mina   2020 isn’t a black swan — it’s a yellow canary

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

David Skok   A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

Tanya Cordrey   Declining trust forces publishers to claim (or disclaim) values

Candis Callison   Calling it a crisis isn’t enough (if it ever was)

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

Mariano Blejman   It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

Mandy Jenkins   You build trust by helping your readers

Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat

Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

Basile Simon   Graphics, unite

Marcus Mabry   News orgs adapt to a post-Trump world (with Trump still in it)

Colleen Shalby   The definition of good journalism shifts

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

Joshua P. Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

Francesca Tripodi   Don’t expect breaking up Google and Facebook to solve our information woes

Charo Henríquez   A new path to leadership

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

Don Day   Business first, journalism second

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

Mark S. Luckie   Newsrooms and streaming services get cozy

J. Siguru Wahutu   Journalists still wrongly think the U.S. is different

John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites

Alicia Bell and Simon Galperin   Media reparations now

Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

Patrick Butler   Covid-19 reporting has prepared us for cross-border collaboration

Stefanie Murray and Anthony Advincula   Expect to see more translations and non-English content

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

Nico Gendron   Ask your readers to help build your products

Juleyka Lantigua   The download, podcasting’s metric king, gets dethroned

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

Cory Haik   Be essential

Garance Franke-Ruta   Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

Catalina Albeanu   Publish less, listen more

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

Doris Truong   Indigenous issues get long-overdue mainstream coverage

Tim Carmody   Spotify will make big waves in video

Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

Kate Myers   My son will join every Zoom call in our industry

Bill Adair   The future of fact-checking is all about structured data

Jennifer Brandel   A sneak peak at power mapping, 2073’s top innovation

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

Laura E. Davis   The focus turns to newsroom leaders for lasting change

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth