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.

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

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

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

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

Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

Heidi Tworek   A year of news mocktails

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

Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

Mariano Blejman   It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

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

Janet Haven and Sam Hinds   Is this an AI newsroom?

Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

Nico Gendron   Ask your readers to help build your products

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

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

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

Jer Thorp   Fewer pixels, more cardboard

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front

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

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

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

Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

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

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

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

Colleen Shalby   The definition of good journalism shifts

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

Doris Truong   Indigenous issues get long-overdue mainstream coverage

Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

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

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

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

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

Mark S. Luckie   Newsrooms and streaming services get cozy

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

Mandy Jenkins   You build trust by helping your readers

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

David Skok   A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

Michael W. Wagner   Fractured democracy, fractured journalism

Ray Soto   The news gets spatial

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability

Jessica Clark   News becomes plural

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

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

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

Sonali Prasad   Making disaster journalism that cuts through the noise

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

Garance Franke-Ruta   Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

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

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

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

Kristen Muller   Engaged journalism scales

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

Charo Henríquez   A new path to leadership

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

Alyssa Zeisler   Holistic medicine for journalism

Nabiha Syed   Newsrooms quit their toxic relationships

Logan Jaffe   History as a reporting tool

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

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

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

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

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

Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

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

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

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

Burt Herman   Journalists build post-Facebook digital communities

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

José Zamora   Walking the talk on diversity

Joshua P. Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

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

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

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

Nonny de la Pena   News reaches the third dimension

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

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

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

Loretta Chao   Open up the profession

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

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

Don Day   Business first, journalism second

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

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

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

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

Catalina Albeanu   Publish less, listen more

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

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

Tim Carmody   Spotify will make big waves in video

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

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

Basile Simon   Graphics, unite

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

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

Cory Haik   Be essential

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

Alicia Bell and Simon Galperin   Media reparations now

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

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

Gordon Crovitz   Common law will finally apply to the Internet

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

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

Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

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

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery

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

John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls

Zainab Khan   From understanding to feeling

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

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

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors