People won’t renew

“They’ll start deleting newsletters unread as fast as spam, until they are moved to cancel.”

Expect another tough year for journalism.

Neither dual antitrust lawsuits against Facebook from the FTC and 46 state attorneys general nor the DOJ’s monopoly case against Google will funnel money to news operations in 2021. Wonks and media watchers will tune to C-SPAN, hopeful that legal action will ease the duopoly’s chokehold on ad dollars, but that won’t happen without a prolonged fight. Remember: The Microsoft case spanned nearly a decade. And many journalism outlets can’t survive that long without radical evolution.

In 2021, expect more noble and/or hopeful but modest efforts to direct money to journalists and newsrooms, deeply roiled long before the contagion locked down Wuhan. But expect those efforts to sustain too few newsrooms. More subject specialists will flock to Substack, hopeful of emulating Andrew Sullivan’s successful subscription model. But really: How many deserving newsletters or sites can one admirer afford — or consume?

Still, expect more newsrooms to secure some grants, (eventually) hold events, and push subscriptions and memberships, perhaps garnering a few more adherents but not enough to guarantee longevity.

Gird for too few renewals or continuing support — not just because so many Americans are in financial distress, but because as people step farther from their keyboards as the pandemic ebbs, many will tire of reading about political, biological and financial chaos. They’ll start deleting newsletters unread as fast as spam, until they are moved to cancel. Then they’ll return to relying on the convenient social pipelines filled with fluff and fakery, namely Facebook, Instagram, and Google. (Little will change at those platforms beyond hiring more lawyers to fight regulators and federal officials).

The Fourth Estate will remain in dire circumstances, with too few billionaires and well-intended donors to ensure the long-term gainful employment of professional and ethical reporters (and editors, designers, product managers, et al.) to do the time- and resource-intensive watchdogging of individuals, institutions and government that protects our democracy.

In yet another Darwinian year, the technologically sophisticated and financially stable New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal will be fine. That’s good for them, as their journalism and interactives are often stellar, but reliance on too few reputable news sources antagonizes the right and contributes to echo chambers, efficiently elevated by algorighms. And guess which platforms are best at monetizing those?

The same ones that deservingly are in the legal hot seat. In 2021, let’s hope for faster inroads in breaking barriers and finding solutions to ensure that journalism survives and thrives.

And fingers crossed that Report For America wins the $100 million MacArthur Foundation grant, which I would predict will happen but don’t want to jinx anything.

Expect another tough year for journalism.

Neither dual antitrust lawsuits against Facebook from the FTC and 46 state attorneys general nor the DOJ’s monopoly case against Google will funnel money to news operations in 2021. Wonks and media watchers will tune to C-SPAN, hopeful that legal action will ease the duopoly’s chokehold on ad dollars, but that won’t happen without a prolonged fight. Remember: The Microsoft case spanned nearly a decade. And many journalism outlets can’t survive that long without radical evolution.

In 2021, expect more noble and/or hopeful but modest efforts to direct money to journalists and newsrooms, deeply roiled long before the contagion locked down Wuhan. But expect those efforts to sustain too few newsrooms. More subject specialists will flock to Substack, hopeful of emulating Andrew Sullivan’s successful subscription model. But really: How many deserving newsletters or sites can one admirer afford — or consume?

Still, expect more newsrooms to secure some grants, (eventually) hold events, and push subscriptions and memberships, perhaps garnering a few more adherents but not enough to guarantee longevity.

Gird for too few renewals or continuing support — not just because so many Americans are in financial distress, but because as people step farther from their keyboards as the pandemic ebbs, many will tire of reading about political, biological and financial chaos. They’ll start deleting newsletters unread as fast as spam, until they are moved to cancel. Then they’ll return to relying on the convenient social pipelines filled with fluff and fakery, namely Facebook, Instagram, and Google. (Little will change at those platforms beyond hiring more lawyers to fight regulators and federal officials).

The Fourth Estate will remain in dire circumstances, with too few billionaires and well-intended donors to ensure the long-term gainful employment of professional and ethical reporters (and editors, designers, product managers, et al.) to do the time- and resource-intensive watchdogging of individuals, institutions and government that protects our democracy.

In yet another Darwinian year, the technologically sophisticated and financially stable New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal will be fine. That’s good for them, as their journalism and interactives are often stellar, but reliance on too few reputable news sources antagonizes the right and contributes to echo chambers, efficiently elevated by algorighms. And guess which platforms are best at monetizing those?

The same ones that deservingly are in the legal hot seat. In 2021, let’s hope for faster inroads in breaking barriers and finding solutions to ensure that journalism survives and thrives.

And fingers crossed that Report For America wins the $100 million MacArthur Foundation grant, which I would predict will happen but don’t want to jinx anything.

Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

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

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

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

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

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

Tim Carmody   Spotify will make big waves in video

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

Mark S. Luckie   Newsrooms and streaming services get cozy

Colleen Shalby   The definition of good journalism shifts

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

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

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

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer

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

Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

Joshua P. Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

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

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

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

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

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

Alyssa Zeisler   Holistic medicine for journalism

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

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

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

Nonny de la Pena   News reaches the third dimension

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

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

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

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

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

John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

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

David Skok   A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

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

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

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

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

Doris Truong   Indigenous issues get long-overdue mainstream coverage

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

Heidi Tworek   A year of news mocktails

Alicia Bell and Simon Galperin   Media reparations now

Janet Haven and Sam Hinds   Is this an AI newsroom?

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

Gordon Crovitz   Common law will finally apply to the Internet

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth

Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

Mandy Jenkins   You build trust by helping your readers

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

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

Burt Herman   Journalists build post-Facebook digital communities

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

Nabiha Syed   Newsrooms quit their toxic relationships

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

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

Loretta Chao   Open up the profession

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

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

Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

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

Ray Soto   The news gets spatial

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

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

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

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

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

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

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

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

Michael W. Wagner   Fractured democracy, fractured journalism

Sonali Prasad   Making disaster journalism that cuts through the noise

Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

Mariano Blejman   It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

Garance Franke-Ruta   Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

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

Basile Simon   Graphics, unite

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

Catalina Albeanu   Publish less, listen more

Kristen Muller   Engaged journalism scales

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

Jer Thorp   Fewer pixels, more cardboard

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

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

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

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

Cory Haik   Be essential

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls

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

Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

Jessica Clark   News becomes plural

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

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

Don Day   Business first, journalism second

Charo Henríquez   A new path to leadership

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

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

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

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

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

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

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

Nico Gendron   Ask your readers to help build your products

Logan Jaffe   History as a reporting tool

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

José Zamora   Walking the talk on diversity

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

Zainab Khan   From understanding to feeling

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front