You build trust by helping your readers

“Service journalism is a way to build bridges with even our fiercest critics by giving them the information they need to navigate daily life.”

We in local media are often a conduit between institutions and people — a position we should be leveraging to produce service journalism that helps our audiences navigate opaque and rapidly changing systems.

Whether it’s filing for unemployment, registering to vote, or getting a Covid test, our audiences run into lots of questions that government websites are often ill-equipped to explain: What is this? What does it mean for me? What do I need to do? This is doubly important for those for whom English is not their primary language.

When we in the media have to work hard to earn the audience’s trust, service journalism is a way to build bridges with even our fiercest critics by giving them the information they need to navigate daily life.

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit northern Ohio in early spring, our team at Mahoning Matters poured their efforts into building resources on topics like ordering from local restaurants and educating kids at home, as well as updating a rolling FAQ. We took the same approach in compiling our voter guides for November’s election — including content on the issues and candidates on the ballot as well as the basics of how to register to vote.

When you only have two full-time reporters, it’s a gamble to put their efforts into list-building and question-answering — but it paid off. These resources and guides ranked among our most visited stories of the year, serving our regular readers and attracting new ones via social shares and search.

They aren’t the sexiest stories out there, but this sort of work is where much of local journalism’s impact has been felt this year, and we should expect to see that trend continue into 2021. We should be working now to determine which questions our communities have about the coronavirus vaccine distribution, economic recovery efforts, and changes coming to eviction moratoriums, schooling, and eldercare.

After a year where everything was confusing, and the goalposts were always moving, the best we can do as news organizations is to be useful and supportive to our communities. We all have healing to do.

Mandy Jenkins is general manager of The Compass Experiment at McClatchy and publisher of its two local news sites, Mahoning Matters and The Longmont Leader.

We in local media are often a conduit between institutions and people — a position we should be leveraging to produce service journalism that helps our audiences navigate opaque and rapidly changing systems.

Whether it’s filing for unemployment, registering to vote, or getting a Covid test, our audiences run into lots of questions that government websites are often ill-equipped to explain: What is this? What does it mean for me? What do I need to do? This is doubly important for those for whom English is not their primary language.

When we in the media have to work hard to earn the audience’s trust, service journalism is a way to build bridges with even our fiercest critics by giving them the information they need to navigate daily life.

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit northern Ohio in early spring, our team at Mahoning Matters poured their efforts into building resources on topics like ordering from local restaurants and educating kids at home, as well as updating a rolling FAQ. We took the same approach in compiling our voter guides for November’s election — including content on the issues and candidates on the ballot as well as the basics of how to register to vote.

When you only have two full-time reporters, it’s a gamble to put their efforts into list-building and question-answering — but it paid off. These resources and guides ranked among our most visited stories of the year, serving our regular readers and attracting new ones via social shares and search.

They aren’t the sexiest stories out there, but this sort of work is where much of local journalism’s impact has been felt this year, and we should expect to see that trend continue into 2021. We should be working now to determine which questions our communities have about the coronavirus vaccine distribution, economic recovery efforts, and changes coming to eviction moratoriums, schooling, and eldercare.

After a year where everything was confusing, and the goalposts were always moving, the best we can do as news organizations is to be useful and supportive to our communities. We all have healing to do.

Mandy Jenkins is general manager of The Compass Experiment at McClatchy and publisher of its two local news sites, Mahoning Matters and The Longmont Leader.

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

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

Nonny de la Pena   News reaches the third dimension

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

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

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

Alicia Bell and Simon Galperin   Media reparations now

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

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

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

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

Tim Carmody   Spotify will make big waves in video

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

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

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

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

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

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

Basile Simon   Graphics, unite

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

Nico Gendron   Ask your readers to help build your products

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

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

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

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

Garance Franke-Ruta   Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

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

Nabiha Syed   Newsrooms quit their toxic relationships

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

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

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

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

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

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

Zainab Khan   From understanding to feeling

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

Catalina Albeanu   Publish less, listen more

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

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

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

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

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

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery

Michael W. Wagner   Fractured democracy, fractured journalism

Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

Alyssa Zeisler   Holistic medicine for journalism

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

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

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer

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

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

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

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

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

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

Mariano Blejman   It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

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

Heidi Tworek   A year of news mocktails

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

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

Loretta Chao   Open up the profession

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

Kristen Muller   Engaged journalism scales

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

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

Don Day   Business first, journalism second

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

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

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

Jessica Clark   News becomes plural

Logan Jaffe   History as a reporting tool

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls

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

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

Charo Henríquez   A new path to leadership

Ray Soto   The news gets spatial

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

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

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat

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

Sonali Prasad   Making disaster journalism that cuts through the noise

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

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

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

José Zamora   Walking the talk on diversity

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

Mark S. Luckie   Newsrooms and streaming services get cozy

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

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

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

Janet Haven and Sam Hinds   Is this an AI newsroom?

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

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

David Skok   A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

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

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

Mandy Jenkins   You build trust by helping your readers

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

Colleen Shalby   The definition of good journalism shifts

Joshua Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

Jer Thorp   Fewer pixels, more cardboard

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

Cory Haik   Be essential

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

Burt Herman   Journalists build post-Facebook digital communities

Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

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

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

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

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

Doris Truong   Indigenous issues get long-overdue mainstream coverage

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites