The year we look beyond The Story

“There’s something about the mission-driven nature of what we do that makes it easy — maybe too easy — to separate what we do into ‘the journalism’ vs. ‘everything else,’ with the latter often wrongly seen as a cost to the former.”

To this day, one of the most meaningful professional compliments I’ve ever received was when a renowned investigative reporter colleague of mine told me, back when I was a young reporter, that I could “really bring it.”

Thanks mostly to luck and privilege, I started my career almost 15 years ago working on investigative teams. In my own self-centered mythology, I was a Serious Journalist who wrote Serious Things. I was about The Story. The Story was all that mattered.

Like a lot of us, it’s taken a long time for me to accept that other things in our business matter just as much. But if anything good has come out of this mess of a year, it might be that all the upheaval is helping more of our industry come to that realization a whole lot faster than I did.

Long-overdue discussions about race and equity are showing newsroom leaders that developing fair and inclusive systems for recruiting, hiring, rewarding, and retaining their people can no longer take a backseat to the needs of the news report.

The growing demands of journalists for things like clear career paths, regular feedback, and consensus-driven leadership are creating more space for conversations about how newsrooms operate as professional workplaces.

The sudden Covid-driven shift to remote work has forced us to reconsider decades-old patterns of how we communicate, collaborate, and coordinate. Some of those things, in turn, are making us better, more efficient organizations.

The New York Times passed the key milestone of collecting the majority of its revenue from digital sources — in large part because their investments in product and technology reflect an understanding that the products we use to deliver the news are as important as the news itself.

And finally, the strain this year has placed on our physical and mental health has helped remind us that how we treat our colleagues matters most of all. It has helped to destigmatize open discussion of stress and mental health and has pierced the myth that showing up to work tired, sick, or overwhelmed is something to be celebrated.

For a long time, I think we’ve hidden behind the fiction that our jobs as journalists are simple: Show up, work hard, tell some good stories — some of which even make a difference — then rinse and repeat. Not a whole lot to it.

That, plus the relentless demands of the daily news cycle, has always made it easy to retreat to the familiar comfort of The Story rather than fully engage in the hard, unglamorous work of building resilient cultures, quality products, or well-managed teams.

I can see why. The fact that my former colleague’s compliment still means so much to me is a constant reminder that my ego will always be partly wrapped up in my identity as a reporter. There’s something about the mission-driven nature of what we do that makes it easy — maybe too easy — to separate what we do into “the journalism” vs. “everything else,” with the latter often wrongly seen as a cost to the former.

The other thing about journalists and mission, though, is that many of us got into this profession out of a desire to improve the world around us. Once we see a problem, it’s hard for us to unsee it.

2020 forced more of us to truly see some of these issues for the first time. That means that in 2021, there will be more of us than ever who will be motivated to do something about them.

Chase Davis is a senior digital editor at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

To this day, one of the most meaningful professional compliments I’ve ever received was when a renowned investigative reporter colleague of mine told me, back when I was a young reporter, that I could “really bring it.”

Thanks mostly to luck and privilege, I started my career almost 15 years ago working on investigative teams. In my own self-centered mythology, I was a Serious Journalist who wrote Serious Things. I was about The Story. The Story was all that mattered.

Like a lot of us, it’s taken a long time for me to accept that other things in our business matter just as much. But if anything good has come out of this mess of a year, it might be that all the upheaval is helping more of our industry come to that realization a whole lot faster than I did.

Long-overdue discussions about race and equity are showing newsroom leaders that developing fair and inclusive systems for recruiting, hiring, rewarding, and retaining their people can no longer take a backseat to the needs of the news report.

The growing demands of journalists for things like clear career paths, regular feedback, and consensus-driven leadership are creating more space for conversations about how newsrooms operate as professional workplaces.

The sudden Covid-driven shift to remote work has forced us to reconsider decades-old patterns of how we communicate, collaborate, and coordinate. Some of those things, in turn, are making us better, more efficient organizations.

The New York Times passed the key milestone of collecting the majority of its revenue from digital sources — in large part because their investments in product and technology reflect an understanding that the products we use to deliver the news are as important as the news itself.

And finally, the strain this year has placed on our physical and mental health has helped remind us that how we treat our colleagues matters most of all. It has helped to destigmatize open discussion of stress and mental health and has pierced the myth that showing up to work tired, sick, or overwhelmed is something to be celebrated.

For a long time, I think we’ve hidden behind the fiction that our jobs as journalists are simple: Show up, work hard, tell some good stories — some of which even make a difference — then rinse and repeat. Not a whole lot to it.

That, plus the relentless demands of the daily news cycle, has always made it easy to retreat to the familiar comfort of The Story rather than fully engage in the hard, unglamorous work of building resilient cultures, quality products, or well-managed teams.

I can see why. The fact that my former colleague’s compliment still means so much to me is a constant reminder that my ego will always be partly wrapped up in my identity as a reporter. There’s something about the mission-driven nature of what we do that makes it easy — maybe too easy — to separate what we do into “the journalism” vs. “everything else,” with the latter often wrongly seen as a cost to the former.

The other thing about journalists and mission, though, is that many of us got into this profession out of a desire to improve the world around us. Once we see a problem, it’s hard for us to unsee it.

2020 forced more of us to truly see some of these issues for the first time. That means that in 2021, there will be more of us than ever who will be motivated to do something about them.

Chase Davis is a senior digital editor at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

Sonali Prasad   Making disaster journalism that cuts through the noise

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat

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

Jer Thorp   Fewer pixels, more cardboard

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

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

José Zamora   Walking the talk on diversity

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

Catalina Albeanu   Publish less, listen more

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

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

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

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

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

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

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

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

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

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

Mariano Blejman   It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

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

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

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

Michael W. Wagner   Fractured democracy, fractured journalism

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

Basile Simon   Graphics, unite

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

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

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

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

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

Loretta Chao   Open up the profession

Alyssa Zeisler   Holistic medicine for journalism

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

Colleen Shalby   The definition of good journalism shifts

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

Alicia Bell and Simon Galperin   Media reparations now

Burt Herman   Journalists build post-Facebook digital communities

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

Don Day   Business first, journalism second

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

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

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

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

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

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

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

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

Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

Mark S. Luckie   Newsrooms and streaming services get cozy

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

Nabiha Syed   Newsrooms quit their toxic relationships

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

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

Mandy Jenkins   You build trust by helping your readers

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

Cory Haik   Be essential

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

Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

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

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors

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

Tim Carmody   Spotify will make big waves in video

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

Doris Truong   Indigenous issues get long-overdue mainstream coverage

Nico Gendron   Ask your readers to help build your products

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

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

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

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

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

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

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

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

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

Garance Franke-Ruta   Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

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

Logan Jaffe   History as a reporting tool

Joshua P. Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

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

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

Zainab Khan   From understanding to feeling

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

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

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

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

Charo Henríquez   A new path to leadership

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

David Skok   A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

Janet Haven and Sam Hinds   Is this an AI newsroom?

Heidi Tworek   A year of news mocktails

Nonny de la Pena   News reaches the third dimension

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

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

Jessica Clark   News becomes plural

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

Ray Soto   The news gets spatial

Kristen Muller   Engaged journalism scales

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

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

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth

Gordon Crovitz   Common law will finally apply to the Internet

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability