Citizen journalism, but make it equitable

“There exists enormous potential to build partnerships between newsrooms, individual content creators, mediamakers, and citizens that are both just and sustainable.”

As exciting as it is to see local newsrooms launching every week, there are parts of the country where it’s unlikely anyone will start a news outlet that can pay journalists living wages to do the news full-time.

The economics don’t work; the math simply doesn’t math.

But one answer for newsrooms and communities is right at our fingertips: We need to bring back citizen journalism, and this time make it equitable.

If you’ll remember, the first serious go-round came around the time of the economic crisis of 2008, when newspapers turned to citizen journalism, frankly, as a way of getting free or super-cheap content for their websites. The experiment, based on practices that were exploitative and extractive, largely failed amid burnout and high turnover.

Fast forward to now. There exists enormous potential to build partnerships between newsrooms, individual content creators, mediamakers, and citizens that are both just and sustainable.

Several organizations are already innovating in this space. This past summer at Scalawag, a nonprofit newsroom covering the South, a white reporter and Black farmer co-reported a story about farming in Mississippi. “For many of our sources, time is money, and we have to address the imbalance of reporters getting paid to tell stories on behalf of people without whom none of this work is possible,” wrote Erica Hensley, the white journalist who worked on the story.

I’ve long been a fan of the Documenters program from Chicago-based City Bureau, which trains community members to document public meetings who then work with journalists to publish findings. In 2018, City Bureau expanded the program to six cities through a partnership network.

Plus, platforms like TikTok and YouTube have created ways for users to monetize their content. Legions of tech-savvy mediamakers live in communities currently not served by a news outlet, many of them already providing a form of coverage by documenting encounters with law enforcement, talking to public officials on podcasts and video streaming platforms and commentating on local issues. Some are hobbyists, some have agendas, some hope to build brands, some just like to run their mouths about what’s going on around town.

Either way, they’re providing valuable sources of information in places where fully staffed news organizations are unlikely to return anytime soon. Newsrooms should assign editors, reporters, data journalists and other resources to work with these citizen journalists. And pay them equitably. These wouldn’t just be investments in content; in the long run, we’re investing in democracy.

Ryan “R.L.” Nave is the editor-in-chief at Reckon.

As exciting as it is to see local newsrooms launching every week, there are parts of the country where it’s unlikely anyone will start a news outlet that can pay journalists living wages to do the news full-time.

The economics don’t work; the math simply doesn’t math.

But one answer for newsrooms and communities is right at our fingertips: We need to bring back citizen journalism, and this time make it equitable.

If you’ll remember, the first serious go-round came around the time of the economic crisis of 2008, when newspapers turned to citizen journalism, frankly, as a way of getting free or super-cheap content for their websites. The experiment, based on practices that were exploitative and extractive, largely failed amid burnout and high turnover.

Fast forward to now. There exists enormous potential to build partnerships between newsrooms, individual content creators, mediamakers, and citizens that are both just and sustainable.

Several organizations are already innovating in this space. This past summer at Scalawag, a nonprofit newsroom covering the South, a white reporter and Black farmer co-reported a story about farming in Mississippi. “For many of our sources, time is money, and we have to address the imbalance of reporters getting paid to tell stories on behalf of people without whom none of this work is possible,” wrote Erica Hensley, the white journalist who worked on the story.

I’ve long been a fan of the Documenters program from Chicago-based City Bureau, which trains community members to document public meetings who then work with journalists to publish findings. In 2018, City Bureau expanded the program to six cities through a partnership network.

Plus, platforms like TikTok and YouTube have created ways for users to monetize their content. Legions of tech-savvy mediamakers live in communities currently not served by a news outlet, many of them already providing a form of coverage by documenting encounters with law enforcement, talking to public officials on podcasts and video streaming platforms and commentating on local issues. Some are hobbyists, some have agendas, some hope to build brands, some just like to run their mouths about what’s going on around town.

Either way, they’re providing valuable sources of information in places where fully staffed news organizations are unlikely to return anytime soon. Newsrooms should assign editors, reporters, data journalists and other resources to work with these citizen journalists. And pay them equitably. These wouldn’t just be investments in content; in the long run, we’re investing in democracy.

Ryan “R.L.” Nave is the editor-in-chief at Reckon.

Snigdha Sur   Newsrooms get nimble in a recession

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-check (no, really!)

Mary Walter-Brown and Tristan Loper   Mission-driven metrics become our North Star

Jonas Kaiser   Rejecting the “free speech” frame

Jarrad Henderson   Video editing will help people understand the media they consume

Josh Schwartz   The AI spammers are coming

Cindy Royal   Yes, journalists should learn to code, but…

Sue Schardt   Toward a new poetics of journalism

Masuma Ahuja   Journalism starts working for and with its communities

Anthony Nadler   Confronting media gerrymandering

Mauricio Cabrera   It’s no longer about audiences, it’s about communities

Alex Perry   New paths to transparency without Twitter

Lisa Heyamoto   The independent news industry gets a roadmap to sustainability

Barbara Raab   More journalism funders will take more risks

Michael W. Wagner   The backlash against pro-democracy reporting is coming

Cari Nazeer and Emily Goligoski   News organizations step up their support for caregivers

Dannagal G. Young   Stop rewarding elite performances of identity threat

A.J. Bauer   Covering the right wrong

Jesse Holcomb   Buffeted, whipped, bullied, pulled

Burt Herman   The year AI truly arrives — and with it the reckoning

Tre'vell Anderson   Continued culpability in anti-trans campaigns

Hillary Frey   Death to the labor-intensive memo for prospective hires

Zizi Papacharissi   Platforms are over

Elite Truong   In platform collapse, an opportunity for community

Martina Efeyini   Talk to Gen Z. They’re the experts of Gen Z.

Eric Holthaus   As social media fragments, marginalized voices gain more power

Megan Lucero and Shirish Kulkarni   The future of journalism is not you

Jim Friedlich   Local journalism steps up to the challenge of civic coverage

Ben Werdmuller   The internet is up for grabs again

Nicholas Jackson   There will be launches — and we’ll keep doing the work

Raney Aronson-Rath   Journalists will band together to fight intimidation

Nikki Usher   This is the year of the RSS reader. (Really!)

Moreno Cruz Osório   Brazilian journalism turns wounds into action

Pia Frey   Publishers start polling their users at scale

Don Day   The news about the news is bad. I’m optimistic.

Brian Moritz   Rebuilding the news bundle

Rodney Gibbs   Recalibrating how we work apart

Anika Anand   Independent news businesses lead the way on healthy work cultures

Jenna Weiss-Berman   The economic downturn benefits the podcasting industry. (No, really!)

Jody Brannon   We’ll embrace policy remedies

Sue Robinson   Engagement journalism will have to confront a tougher reality

Basile Simon   Towards supporting criminal accountability

David Cohn   AI made this prediction

Julia Beizer   News fatigue shows us a clear path forward

Mario García   More newsrooms go mobile-first

Al Lucca   Digital news design gets interesting again

Joshua P. Darr   Local to live, wire to wither

Juleyka Lantigua   Newsrooms recognize women of color as the canaries in the coal mine

Ståle Grut   Your newsroom experiences a Midjourney-gate, too

Kerri Hoffman   Podcasting goes local

Karina Montoya   More reporters on the antitrust beat

Ryan Nave   Citizen journalism, but make it equitable

Surya Mattu   Data journalists learn from photojournalists

Stefanie Murray   The year U.S. media stops screwing around and becomes pro-democracy

Alexandra Borchardt   The year of the climate journalism strategy

Alan Henry   A reckoning with why trust in news is so low

Eric Thurm   Journalists think of themselves as workers

Dana Lacey   Tech will screw publishers over

Tamar Charney   Flux is the new stability

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Journalism education faces a crossroads

Gina Chua   The traditional story structure gets deconstructed

Kirstin McCudden   We’ll codify protection of journalism and newsgathering

Dominic-Madori Davis   Everyone finally realizes the need for diverse voices in tech reporting

Jacob L. Nelson   Despite it all, people will still want to be journalists

Sarabeth Berman   Nonprofit local news shows that it can scale

Priyanjana Bengani   Partisan local news networks will collaborate

Sumi Aggarwal   Smart newsrooms will prioritize board development

Gordon Crovitz   The year advertisers stop funding misinformation

Kathy Lu   We need emotionally agile newsroom leaders

Joanne McNeil   Facebook and the media kiss and make up

Janet Haven   ChatGPT and the future of trust 

Upasna Gautam   Technology that performs at the speed of news

Sue Cross   Thinking and acting collectively to save the news

Ariel Zirulnick   Journalism doubles down on user needs

Esther Kezia Thorpe   Subscription pressures force product innovation

Wilson Liévano   Diaspora journalism takes the next step

Jessica Maddox   Journalists keep getting manipulated by internet culture

Nicholas Thompson   The year AI actually changes the media business

Jennifer Brandel   AI couldn’t care less. Journalists will care more. 

Jim VandeHei   There is no “peak newsletter”

Sarah Marshall   A web channel strategy won’t be enough

Shanté Cosme   The answer to “quiet quitting” is radical empathy

Brian Stelter   Finding new ways to reach news avoiders

Alexandra Svokos   Working harder to reach audiences where they are

Walter Frick   Journalists wake up to the power of prediction markets

Jakob Moll   Journalism startups will think beyond English

Tim Carmody   Newsletter writers need a new ethics

Paul Cheung   More news organizations will realize they are in the business of impact, not eyeballs

Taylor Lorenz   The “creator economy” will be astroturfed

Jessica Clark   Open discourse retrenches

Jennifer Choi and Jonathan Jackson   Funders finally bet on next-generation news entrepreneurs

Mael Vallejo   More threats to press freedom across the Americas

John Davidow   A year of intergenerational learning

Laura E. Davis   The year we embrace the robots — and ourselves

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   More of the same

Ryan Kellett   Airline-like loyalty programs try to tie down news readers

Mariana Moura Santos   A woman who speaks is a woman who changes the world

J. Siguru Wahutu   American journalism reckons with its colonialist tendencies

Doris Truong   Workers demand to be paid what the job is worth

Andrew Donohue   We’ll find out whether journalism can, indeed, save democracy

Ayala Panievsky   It’s time for PR for journalism

Leezel Tanglao   Community partnerships drive better reporting

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Journalists productively harness generative AI tools

Jaden Amos   TikTok personality journalists continue to rise

Kaitlin C. Miller   Harassment in journalism won’t get better, but we’ll talk about it more openly

Christoph Mergerson   The rot at the core of the news business

Alex Sujong Laughlin   Credit where it’s due

Andrew Losowsky   Journalism realizes the replacement for Twitter is not a new Twitter

Sam Guzik   AI will start fact-checking. We may not like the results.

Gabe Schneider   Well-funded journalism leaders stop making disparate pay

Matt Rasnic   More newsroom workers turn to organized labor

Eric Ulken   Generative AI brings wrongness at scale

Joni Deutsch   Podcast collaboration — not competition — breeds excellence

Julia Angwin   Democracies will get serious about saving journalism

Cassandra Etienne   Local news fellowships will help fight newsroom inequities

Sam Gregory   Synthetic media forces us to understand how media gets made

Richard Tofel   The press might get better at vetting presidential candidates

David Skok   Renewed interest in human-powered reporting

Sarah Alvarez   Dream bigger or lose out

Kaitlyn Wells   We’ll prioritize media literacy for children

An Xiao Mina   Journalism in a time of permacrisis

Emma Carew Grovum   The year to resist forgetting about diversity

Parker Molloy   We’ll reach new heights of moral panic

S. Mitra Kalita   “Everything sucks. Good luck to you.”

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Well-being will become a core tenet of journalism

Amethyst J. Davis   The slight of the great contraction

Anna Nirmala   News organizations get new structures

Danielle K. Brown and Kathleen Searles   DEI efforts must consider mental health and online abuse

Ryan Gantz   “I’m sorry, but I’m a large language model”

Joe Amditis   AI throws a lifeline to local publishers

Anita Varma   Journalism prioritizes the basic need for survival

Susan Chira   Equipping local journalism

Bill Grueskin   Local news will come to rely on AI

Delano Massey   The industry shakes its imposter syndrome

Felicitas Carrique and Becca Aaronson   News product goes from trend to standard

Rachel Glickhouse   Humanizing newsrooms will be a badge of honor

Johannes Klingebiel   The innovation team, R.I.P.

Larry Ryckman   We’ll work together with our competitors

Daniel Trielli   Trust in news will continue to fall. Just look at Brazil.

Simon Galperin   Philanthropy stops investing in corporate media

Laxmi Parthasarathy   Unlocking the silent demand for international journalism

Peter Bale   Rising costs force more digital innovation

Errin Haines   Journalists on the campaign trail mend trust with the public

Cory Bergman   The AI content flood

Victor Pickard   The year journalism and capitalism finally divorce

Emily Nonko   Incarcerated reporters get more bylines

Christina Shih   Shared values move from nice-to-haves to essentials

Kavya Sukumar   Belling the cat: The rise of independent fact-checking at scale

Mar Cabra   The inevitable mental health revolution

Molly de Aguiar and Mandy Van Deven   Narrative change trend brings new money to journalism

Francesco Zaffarano   There is no end of “social media”

Sarah Stonbely   Growth in public funding for news and information at the state and local levels

Khushbu Shah   Global reporting will suffer

Michael Schudson   Journalism gets more and more difficult

Peter Sterne   AI enters the newsroom

Eric Nuzum   A focus on people instead of power

Janelle Salanga   Journalists work from a place of harm reduction