We’ll find better ways to archive our work

“I’m more interested in ever in endeavors to make reporting with ongoing value more accessible.”

Here’s my wish list for 2021.

We’ll find better ways to archive our work. As another year goes by in which lots of meaningful reporting risks being buried in the ever-growing heap of digital content, I’m more interested in ever in endeavors to make reporting with ongoing value more accessible. A few years back, Jonathan Groves’ writing made me think about how different journalism might look if our metrics were set around longevity rather than clicks or immediate engagement.

Many newsrooms are experimenting with new ways to make reporting with a long shelf life accessible on an ongoing basis. Podcasts have come to play that role for some news outlets. And, in my work the past couple of years at Tiller Press at Simon & Schuster, we’ve been looking at how books act as a final format for reporting — not just through the individual reporter writing a book as in-depth exploration of a subject (as the Peabody-nominated journalist Cleo Stiller did with her book Modern Manhood), but through other means of collecting reporting. To share a few examples:

  • Jeff Young and the Ohio Valley ReSource team of public radio journalists operating in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio turned four years of reporting primarily through audio journalism pieces into a book called Appalachian Fall: Dispatches from Coal Country on What’s Ailing America.
  • The team at Spaceship Media partnered with Advance Local, Essential Partners, and other organizations in 2018 to convene Americans with a range of opinions about guns, in person and then online, to learn from one another. Journalists following the process then published a range of articles and videos about the project, most of which appeared amidst the daily fodder of the news outlets and went quickly into the archive. We worked with the team to archive that work in a case study book of sorts, called Guns, An American Conversation: How To Bridge Political Divides.
  • Michael Croley and Jack Shuler from Denison University began the Between Coasts online outlet and conferences in the wake of the 2016 election, to combat parachute journalism and to get more attention for journalists and writers based throughout the middle of the U.S., who have been living with and covering the issues faced on those places for years. This year, we published a collection of that work — about half of which had been previously published in various outlets and half of which were original to the book — called Midland: Reports from Flyover Country.

With so many newsrooms and journalists experimenting with how to make their work discoverable beyond the moment — at a time when there’s more competition for our attention than ever — I am excited to see what experiments lie ahead this year.

We’ll address the challenge of geographic diversity in journalism. Nieman Lab has been among the outlets writing with frequency about the concentration of journalism jobs within an increasingly smaller number of national metro areas. Often, we have pointed to those trends as a sign of the declining resources for local news — a particular area of focus of the research I’ve conducted with colleagues through the Tow Center for Digital Journalism over the past few years. But, to borrow a distinction Andrea Wenzel used as part of our work, that’s the “reporting for” local communities part of the problem. There’s also the “reporting about” those communities.

The model of increasing concentration into national news outlets has meant reporters based in a few metro areas have been responsible for reporting on happenings around the country. Yet Covid-19 has revealed the possibilities for people to collaborate without all working out of the same building. It’s demonstrated that news organizations can function without the physical newsroom being essential to the center of the enterprise. And that could mean more national news outlets come out of this moment being significantly more open to a distributed workforce. While there are many challenges that can come with colleagues not sharing physical space together as frequently, this change can address many issues. Having more reporting talent spread throughout the country can have a profound effect on how communities are covered, and how communities feel covered. What’s more, the range of potential talent who see the journalism industry as a possible career option will broaden if they don’t have to live in some of the most expensive housing markets in the country.

We’ll invest in meaningful online participation. As we went through a presidential election year in the midst of a pandemic, we saw people openly struggling with how to engage in civic life. Town halls and community forums were a challenge to convene. And the public has become significantly more critical of the moderation policies of commercial social network platforms.

News outlets — particularly at the local level — have new potential to play for convening meaningful civic dialogue. A couple of years back, Joe Karaganis and I partnered with a platform called Polis and the Bowling Green Daily News here in Kentucky to host the Bowling Green Civic Assembly through the American Assembly at Columbia University. Our work centered on a virtual town hall asking the question: What would need to change in the city to make it a better place to live, work, and spend time. This year, in February, we partnered with Louisville Public Media to convene a similar online conversation called The Next Louisville: Civic Assembly.

In these experiments, we’ve seen how digital platforms with a low barrier of entry and a focus on solutions-oriented discussions can facilitate meaningful dialogue. I’ve been excited to see lots of other approaches to local convening in 2020, and I hope that spirit of experimentation grows in 2021.

Sam Ford is director of cultural intelligence at Simon & Schuster’s Tiller Press.

Here’s my wish list for 2021.

We’ll find better ways to archive our work. As another year goes by in which lots of meaningful reporting risks being buried in the ever-growing heap of digital content, I’m more interested in ever in endeavors to make reporting with ongoing value more accessible. A few years back, Jonathan Groves’ writing made me think about how different journalism might look if our metrics were set around longevity rather than clicks or immediate engagement.

Many newsrooms are experimenting with new ways to make reporting with a long shelf life accessible on an ongoing basis. Podcasts have come to play that role for some news outlets. And, in my work the past couple of years at Tiller Press at Simon & Schuster, we’ve been looking at how books act as a final format for reporting — not just through the individual reporter writing a book as in-depth exploration of a subject (as the Peabody-nominated journalist Cleo Stiller did with her book Modern Manhood), but through other means of collecting reporting. To share a few examples:

  • Jeff Young and the Ohio Valley ReSource team of public radio journalists operating in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio turned four years of reporting primarily through audio journalism pieces into a book called Appalachian Fall: Dispatches from Coal Country on What’s Ailing America.
  • The team at Spaceship Media partnered with Advance Local, Essential Partners, and other organizations in 2018 to convene Americans with a range of opinions about guns, in person and then online, to learn from one another. Journalists following the process then published a range of articles and videos about the project, most of which appeared amidst the daily fodder of the news outlets and went quickly into the archive. We worked with the team to archive that work in a case study book of sorts, called Guns, An American Conversation: How To Bridge Political Divides.
  • Michael Croley and Jack Shuler from Denison University began the Between Coasts online outlet and conferences in the wake of the 2016 election, to combat parachute journalism and to get more attention for journalists and writers based throughout the middle of the U.S., who have been living with and covering the issues faced on those places for years. This year, we published a collection of that work — about half of which had been previously published in various outlets and half of which were original to the book — called Midland: Reports from Flyover Country.

With so many newsrooms and journalists experimenting with how to make their work discoverable beyond the moment — at a time when there’s more competition for our attention than ever — I am excited to see what experiments lie ahead this year.

We’ll address the challenge of geographic diversity in journalism. Nieman Lab has been among the outlets writing with frequency about the concentration of journalism jobs within an increasingly smaller number of national metro areas. Often, we have pointed to those trends as a sign of the declining resources for local news — a particular area of focus of the research I’ve conducted with colleagues through the Tow Center for Digital Journalism over the past few years. But, to borrow a distinction Andrea Wenzel used as part of our work, that’s the “reporting for” local communities part of the problem. There’s also the “reporting about” those communities.

The model of increasing concentration into national news outlets has meant reporters based in a few metro areas have been responsible for reporting on happenings around the country. Yet Covid-19 has revealed the possibilities for people to collaborate without all working out of the same building. It’s demonstrated that news organizations can function without the physical newsroom being essential to the center of the enterprise. And that could mean more national news outlets come out of this moment being significantly more open to a distributed workforce. While there are many challenges that can come with colleagues not sharing physical space together as frequently, this change can address many issues. Having more reporting talent spread throughout the country can have a profound effect on how communities are covered, and how communities feel covered. What’s more, the range of potential talent who see the journalism industry as a possible career option will broaden if they don’t have to live in some of the most expensive housing markets in the country.

We’ll invest in meaningful online participation. As we went through a presidential election year in the midst of a pandemic, we saw people openly struggling with how to engage in civic life. Town halls and community forums were a challenge to convene. And the public has become significantly more critical of the moderation policies of commercial social network platforms.

News outlets — particularly at the local level — have new potential to play for convening meaningful civic dialogue. A couple of years back, Joe Karaganis and I partnered with a platform called Polis and the Bowling Green Daily News here in Kentucky to host the Bowling Green Civic Assembly through the American Assembly at Columbia University. Our work centered on a virtual town hall asking the question: What would need to change in the city to make it a better place to live, work, and spend time. This year, in February, we partnered with Louisville Public Media to convene a similar online conversation called The Next Louisville: Civic Assembly.

In these experiments, we’ve seen how digital platforms with a low barrier of entry and a focus on solutions-oriented discussions can facilitate meaningful dialogue. I’ve been excited to see lots of other approaches to local convening in 2020, and I hope that spirit of experimentation grows in 2021.

Sam Ford is director of cultural intelligence at Simon & Schuster’s Tiller Press.

Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

Don Day   Business first, journalism second

Janet Haven and Sam Hinds   Is this an AI newsroom?

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

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

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

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

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

Mandy Jenkins   You build trust by helping your readers

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

Logan Jaffe   History as a reporting tool

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

Nonny de la Pena   News reaches the third dimension

Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

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

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

Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

Cory Haik   Be essential

Alicia Bell and Simon Galperin   Media reparations now

José Zamora   Walking the talk on diversity

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

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

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

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

Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls

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

Jessica Clark   News becomes plural

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

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

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

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

Colleen Shalby   The definition of good journalism shifts

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

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

Garance Franke-Ruta   Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

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

Jer Thorp   Fewer pixels, more cardboard

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

Nico Gendron   Ask your readers to help build your products

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)

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

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

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

Sonali Prasad   Making disaster journalism that cuts through the noise

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

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

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

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

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

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

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

Doris Truong   Indigenous issues get long-overdue mainstream coverage

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth

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

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

Burt Herman   Journalists build post-Facebook digital communities

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

Alyssa Zeisler   Holistic medicine for journalism

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

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

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

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

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

David Skok   A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

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

Heidi Tworek   A year of news mocktails

Charo Henríquez   A new path to leadership

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

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

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

Nabiha Syed   Newsrooms quit their toxic relationships

Zainab Khan   From understanding to feeling

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

Tim Carmody   Spotify will make big waves in video

Michael W. Wagner   Fractured democracy, fractured journalism

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

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

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

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

Mariano Blejman   It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

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

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

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

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

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

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

Joshua Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

Catalina Albeanu   Publish less, listen more

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

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

Basile Simon   Graphics, unite

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

Mark S. Luckie   Newsrooms and streaming services get cozy

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

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

Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

Loretta Chao   Open up the profession

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

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

Kristen Muller   Engaged journalism scales

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

Ray Soto   The news gets spatial

Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

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

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer