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.

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

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

Burt Herman   Journalists build post-Facebook digital communities

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

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

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

Kristen Muller   Engaged journalism scales

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

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

Nabiha Syed   Newsrooms quit their toxic relationships

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

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

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

Gordon Crovitz   Common law will finally apply to the Internet

Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

Jessica Clark   News becomes plural

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

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

Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

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

Catalina Albeanu   Publish less, listen more

Nico Gendron   Ask your readers to help build your products

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

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

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

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

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

Alyssa Zeisler   Holistic medicine for journalism

Alicia Bell and Simon Galperin   Media reparations now

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

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

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

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

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

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

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls

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

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

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

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability

Jer Thorp   Fewer pixels, more cardboard

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

Michael W. Wagner   Fractured democracy, fractured journalism

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

Nonny de la Pena   News reaches the third dimension

Mandy Jenkins   You build trust by helping your readers

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

Mark S. Luckie   Newsrooms and streaming services get cozy

Loretta Chao   Open up the profession

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

David Skok   A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

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

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

Tim Carmody   Spotify will make big waves in video

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites

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

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

Heidi Tworek   A year of news mocktails

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

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

Mariano Blejman   It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

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

José Zamora   Walking the talk on diversity

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

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

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

Garance Franke-Ruta   Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

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

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

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

Logan Jaffe   History as a reporting tool

Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

Colleen Shalby   The definition of good journalism shifts

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front

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

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth

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

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

Don Day   Business first, journalism second

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

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

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

Sonali Prasad   Making disaster journalism that cuts through the noise

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

Ray Soto   The news gets spatial

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

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

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

Joshua P. Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

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

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

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

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

Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

Zainab Khan   From understanding to feeling

Cory Haik   Be essential

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

Charo Henríquez   A new path to leadership

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

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

Basile Simon   Graphics, unite

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

Janet Haven and Sam Hinds   Is this an AI newsroom?

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

Doris Truong   Indigenous issues get long-overdue mainstream coverage

Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat