The rise of radical newsroom transparency

“Going forward, executives must be prepared to justify hiring and promotion decisions not only to staff but to the broader public.”

I think journalism is about to see the rise of radical transparency within newsrooms, driven by staff members.

The past few years have seen dozens of headline-grabbing scandals involving major news outlets. Not just the #MeToo investigations at NPR, APM, NBC News, The New Republic, CBS, PBS, The New York Times, WNYC, WBUR, and Tronc, but accusations of racial discrimination and harassment at many other organizations as well.

In my work on racial justice, I hear a similar sentiment from journalists all over the country: I’m not sure this will get fixed fast enough for me. If our major news organizations do succeed in becoming equitable and inclusive, it might take years, as so few have shown any appetite for the kind of radical change necessary.

Often, in years past, complaints of a sensitive nature have been addressed behind closed doors. The decision-making process has been opaque and leaders have felt no obligation to share the details of why some team members are let go while others are retained or even promoted. Investigations into abuse, even when carried out by outside agencies, tend to find that yes, problems exist, but they’re somehow not the fault of anyone in management.

Because these issues were never addressed openly, because employees were often punished when they chose to discuss “sensitive issues” with other staff members, leaders were able to continue operating after accusations of abuse without making any substantive changes in policies or procedures.

In the past, it was very difficult to get colleagues to talk about their salaries or their experiences in their workplaces. Now, many are sharing that information without being asked. Journalists have lost patience with the lack of transparency and accountability within their leadership ranks. Many of them, especially the younger ones, are fully prepared to drive change by going public with issues of inequity, harassment, racism, and sexism.

I don’t think this is a short-lived trend; I think it’s the new norm. Going forward, executives must be prepared to justify hiring and promotion decisions not only to staff but to the broader public. What’s more, recruiting talent will become more complicated, as abusive workplaces will be identified and journalists will be warned in a much more open way about which shops they should avoid.

To enforce silence, leaders must either use a threat of punishment or have earned the benefit of the doubt from staff. In many cases, neither of those conditions apply anymore. Journalists are finding support from each other, enough to overcome the fear of retaliation, and many leaders have lost the trust of their teams. It may take years to regain that trust.

In the meantime, journalists will continue to talk to each other openly and honestly, revealing the information that has been secret for so long. For news executives, the days of hiding behind boardroom doors may be over.

I think journalism is about to see the rise of radical transparency within newsrooms, driven by staff members.

The past few years have seen dozens of headline-grabbing scandals involving major news outlets. Not just the #MeToo investigations at NPR, APM, NBC News, The New Republic, CBS, PBS, The New York Times, WNYC, WBUR, and Tronc, but accusations of racial discrimination and harassment at many other organizations as well.

In my work on racial justice, I hear a similar sentiment from journalists all over the country: I’m not sure this will get fixed fast enough for me. If our major news organizations do succeed in becoming equitable and inclusive, it might take years, as so few have shown any appetite for the kind of radical change necessary.

Often, in years past, complaints of a sensitive nature have been addressed behind closed doors. The decision-making process has been opaque and leaders have felt no obligation to share the details of why some team members are let go while others are retained or even promoted. Investigations into abuse, even when carried out by outside agencies, tend to find that yes, problems exist, but they’re somehow not the fault of anyone in management.

Because these issues were never addressed openly, because employees were often punished when they chose to discuss “sensitive issues” with other staff members, leaders were able to continue operating after accusations of abuse without making any substantive changes in policies or procedures.

In the past, it was very difficult to get colleagues to talk about their salaries or their experiences in their workplaces. Now, many are sharing that information without being asked. Journalists have lost patience with the lack of transparency and accountability within their leadership ranks. Many of them, especially the younger ones, are fully prepared to drive change by going public with issues of inequity, harassment, racism, and sexism.

I don’t think this is a short-lived trend; I think it’s the new norm. Going forward, executives must be prepared to justify hiring and promotion decisions not only to staff but to the broader public. What’s more, recruiting talent will become more complicated, as abusive workplaces will be identified and journalists will be warned in a much more open way about which shops they should avoid.

To enforce silence, leaders must either use a threat of punishment or have earned the benefit of the doubt from staff. In many cases, neither of those conditions apply anymore. Journalists are finding support from each other, enough to overcome the fear of retaliation, and many leaders have lost the trust of their teams. It may take years to regain that trust.

In the meantime, journalists will continue to talk to each other openly and honestly, revealing the information that has been secret for so long. For news executives, the days of hiding behind boardroom doors may be over.

Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

Nabiha Syed   Newsrooms quit their toxic relationships

Colleen Shalby   The definition of good journalism shifts

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

Mariano Blejman   It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls

Nico Gendron   Ask your readers to help build your products

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

Mandy Jenkins   You build trust by helping your readers

Tim Carmody   Spotify will make big waves in video

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

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

Ray Soto   The news gets spatial

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

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

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

Heidi Tworek   A year of news mocktails

Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

Basile Simon   Graphics, unite

Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

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

Jer Thorp   Fewer pixels, more cardboard

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

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

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

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

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability

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

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

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

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

Garance Franke-Ruta   Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer

Joshua Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

Logan Jaffe   History as a reporting tool

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

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

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

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

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

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

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front

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

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors

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

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

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

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

Cory Haik   Be essential

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

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

Charo Henríquez   A new path to leadership

Jessica Clark   News becomes plural

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth

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

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

José Zamora   Walking the talk on diversity

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

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

Doris Truong   Indigenous issues get long-overdue mainstream coverage

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

Nonny de la Pena   News reaches the third dimension

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

Mark S. Luckie   Newsrooms and streaming services get cozy

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat

Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

Loretta Chao   Open up the profession

Catalina Albeanu   Publish less, listen more

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

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

Burt Herman   Journalists build post-Facebook digital communities

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

Alyssa Zeisler   Holistic medicine for journalism

james Wahutu   Journalists still wrongly think the U.S. is different

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

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

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

Kristen Muller   Engaged journalism scales

Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

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

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

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

John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

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

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

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

Don Day   Business first, journalism second

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

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

Sonali Prasad   Making disaster journalism that cuts through the noise

David Skok   A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

Alicia Bell and Simon Galperin   Media reparations now

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

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

L. Gordon Crovitz   Common law will finally apply to the Internet

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

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

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

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

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

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

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

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

Michael W. Wagner   Fractured democracy, fractured journalism

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

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

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

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

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

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

Zainab Khan   From understanding to feeling

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

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

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

Janet Haven and Sam Hinds   Is this an AI newsroom?