Dream bigger or lose out

“We can no longer pull our punches when it comes to what we allow ourselves to dream and demand for our work and our world.”

I made my first one of these predictions five years ago, and I’m sorry to say I pulled my punch back then.

When asked what I wanted to see in 2019, I wrote that I wanted those of us working in news to focus on the needs of our communities and redistribute our power. It’s a good practice, but even then it was far too weak of an ask. It’s certainly not enough now.

I didn’t hope back then for much more than a little change around the edges of the news industry. I was running a two-person local news project with a completely inadequate budget, and I was overly preoccupied by everyone else’s relative strengths. But budget size is not everything. In the past few years, so many local reporters have worked themselves to unprecedented levels of burnout, only to be laid off or have their newsrooms shuttered anyway. Outside of the success and growth of a few national brands like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic, the for-profit giants of the past are failing too quickly and completely for the idea of a “news industry” to be anything but nostalgia.

In the years since that first prediction, many of us who work in local news have lost patience with looking backwards and are working instead to envision and help build healthy and resilient local civic information infrastructure. We are so far out of the gate that, regardless what anyone predicts on these pages or anywhere else, a more networked, more responsive, more representative, more resilient and less profit-motivated future is here. For-profit newsrooms and tech platforms will of course be part of this infrastructure, but there’s no need for them to be at the center.

I’ve been part of a group for the past five years that we more recently started calling FLN, for the Future of Local News. When it started, it was self-organized and very informal, but also a committed group of mostly women, mostly people of color running or serving local news organizations. We shared strategy and resources — even money. We tried to coordinate our messages about what high-quality and service-driven news and information can look like.

That group helped all of us, and so we’ve worked to keep growing it. We also started to formalize and break into working groups to build new programs and tools together, rather than just sharing the assets we already have as individual organizations. Early next year, we’ll make it official in some way, because we need more models of these peer-led communities of practice that help us learn faster, together, and make the most of our resources.

There are plenty of networks like this developing or growing all over the country, and there is room for plenty more. Some are locally based, like in Cleveland. There are coalitions changing practice together in places like Philadelphia. There are under-resourced but just as deserving networks across the South, where this liberation mindset comes from, as Cierra Brown Hinton has taught me. Some of these networks are more distributed, like the Documenters, URL Media, and the Tiny News Collective. Some are associations and intermediaries that could become networks as they lean further into collaboration and put power-building programs like Newsmatch on offer.

There is so much room and so much need for more of these networks. Over the next few years, we are also going to need to open them up to other community assets and information providers, like libraries or schools or groups of engaged citizens. We can find a way to work with these groups without compromising our ethics.

Building more resilient, more inclusive, and healthier civic information systems will of course take a lot more money, a lot more work, and policy change. But more than that, it requires culture change.

Each of us who thinks healthier civic information systems are essential for a healthier democracy and for more equitable communities needs to stop holding back. We all know we’re poised on a precipice where losing democracy and so much more is far too possible. We can no longer pull our punches when it comes to what we allow ourselves to dream and demand for our work and our world. I predict fewer of us will.

Sierra Sangetti-Daniels of City Bureau contributed to this prediction.

Sarah Alvarez is the founder and editor-in-chief of Outlier Media.

I made my first one of these predictions five years ago, and I’m sorry to say I pulled my punch back then.

When asked what I wanted to see in 2019, I wrote that I wanted those of us working in news to focus on the needs of our communities and redistribute our power. It’s a good practice, but even then it was far too weak of an ask. It’s certainly not enough now.

I didn’t hope back then for much more than a little change around the edges of the news industry. I was running a two-person local news project with a completely inadequate budget, and I was overly preoccupied by everyone else’s relative strengths. But budget size is not everything. In the past few years, so many local reporters have worked themselves to unprecedented levels of burnout, only to be laid off or have their newsrooms shuttered anyway. Outside of the success and growth of a few national brands like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic, the for-profit giants of the past are failing too quickly and completely for the idea of a “news industry” to be anything but nostalgia.

In the years since that first prediction, many of us who work in local news have lost patience with looking backwards and are working instead to envision and help build healthy and resilient local civic information infrastructure. We are so far out of the gate that, regardless what anyone predicts on these pages or anywhere else, a more networked, more responsive, more representative, more resilient and less profit-motivated future is here. For-profit newsrooms and tech platforms will of course be part of this infrastructure, but there’s no need for them to be at the center.

I’ve been part of a group for the past five years that we more recently started calling FLN, for the Future of Local News. When it started, it was self-organized and very informal, but also a committed group of mostly women, mostly people of color running or serving local news organizations. We shared strategy and resources — even money. We tried to coordinate our messages about what high-quality and service-driven news and information can look like.

That group helped all of us, and so we’ve worked to keep growing it. We also started to formalize and break into working groups to build new programs and tools together, rather than just sharing the assets we already have as individual organizations. Early next year, we’ll make it official in some way, because we need more models of these peer-led communities of practice that help us learn faster, together, and make the most of our resources.

There are plenty of networks like this developing or growing all over the country, and there is room for plenty more. Some are locally based, like in Cleveland. There are coalitions changing practice together in places like Philadelphia. There are under-resourced but just as deserving networks across the South, where this liberation mindset comes from, as Cierra Brown Hinton has taught me. Some of these networks are more distributed, like the Documenters, URL Media, and the Tiny News Collective. Some are associations and intermediaries that could become networks as they lean further into collaboration and put power-building programs like Newsmatch on offer.

There is so much room and so much need for more of these networks. Over the next few years, we are also going to need to open them up to other community assets and information providers, like libraries or schools or groups of engaged citizens. We can find a way to work with these groups without compromising our ethics.

Building more resilient, more inclusive, and healthier civic information systems will of course take a lot more money, a lot more work, and policy change. But more than that, it requires culture change.

Each of us who thinks healthier civic information systems are essential for a healthier democracy and for more equitable communities needs to stop holding back. We all know we’re poised on a precipice where losing democracy and so much more is far too possible. We can no longer pull our punches when it comes to what we allow ourselves to dream and demand for our work and our world. I predict fewer of us will.

Sierra Sangetti-Daniels of City Bureau contributed to this prediction.

Sarah Alvarez is the founder and editor-in-chief of Outlier Media.

Khushbu Shah   Global reporting will suffer

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

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

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

Janet Haven   ChatGPT and the future of trust 

Richard Tofel   The press might get better at vetting presidential candidates

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

J. Siguru Wahutu   American journalism reckons with its colonialist tendencies

Joni Deutsch   Podcast collaboration — not competition — breeds excellence

Rodney Gibbs   Recalibrating how we work apart

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Journalism education faces a crossroads

David Skok   Renewed interest in human-powered reporting

Priyanjana Bengani   Partisan local news networks will collaborate

Dannagal G. Young   Stop rewarding elite performances of identity threat

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

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

Eric Thurm   Journalists think of themselves as workers

Al Lucca   Digital news design gets interesting again

Anita Varma   Journalism prioritizes the basic need for survival

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

Tre'vell Anderson   Continued culpability in anti-trans campaigns

Jim VandeHei   There is no “peak newsletter”

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

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

Jesse Holcomb   Buffeted, whipped, bullied, pulled

Mael Vallejo   More threats to press freedom across the Americas

Tamar Charney   Flux is the new stability

Brian Moritz   Rebuilding the news bundle

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

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

Jessica Maddox   Journalists keep getting manipulated by internet culture

Laxmi Parthasarathy   Unlocking the silent demand for international journalism

Joe Amditis   AI throws a lifeline to local publishers

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

Joshua P. Darr   Local to live, wire to wither

Josh Schwartz   The AI spammers are coming

Taylor Lorenz   The “creator economy” will be astroturfed

Sumi Aggarwal   Smart newsrooms will prioritize board development

Zizi Papacharissi   Platforms are over

Tim Carmody   Newsletter writers need a new ethics

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

Ayala Panievsky   It’s time for PR for journalism

Lisa Heyamoto   The independent news industry gets a roadmap to sustainability

Upasna Gautam   Technology that performs at the speed of news

Ben Werdmuller   The internet is up for grabs again

Amethyst J. Davis   The slight of the great contraction

Nicholas Thompson   The year AI actually changes the media business

Kerri Hoffman   Podcasting goes local

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

Snigdha Sur   Newsrooms get nimble in a recession

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

Sarah Alvarez   Dream bigger or lose out

Mar Cabra   The inevitable mental health revolution

Surya Mattu   Data journalists learn from photojournalists

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

Jessica Clark   Open discourse retrenches

Sue Cross   Thinking and acting collectively to save the news

AX Mina   Journalism in a time of permacrisis

Alexandra Borchardt   The year of the climate journalism strategy

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

Gina Chua   The traditional story structure gets deconstructed

Jonas Kaiser   Rejecting the “free speech” frame

Victor Pickard   The year journalism and capitalism finally divorce

Anna Nirmala   News organizations get new structures

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

Pia Frey   Publishers start polling their users at scale

John Davidow   A year of intergenerational learning

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

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

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

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

Sarah Marshall   A web channel strategy won’t be enough

Ariel Zirulnick   Journalism doubles down on user needs

Ryan Nave   Citizen journalism, but make it equitable

Jody Brannon   We’ll embrace policy remedies

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

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

Sue Schardt   Toward a new poetics of journalism

Cassandra Etienne   Local news fellowships will help fight newsroom inequities

Kathy Lu   We need emotionally agile newsroom leaders

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

Michael Schudson   Journalism gets more and more difficult

Moreno Cruz Osório   Brazilian journalism turns wounds into action

Matt Rasnic   More newsroom workers turn to organized labor

Julia Beizer   News fatigue shows us a clear path forward

Kirstin McCudden   We’ll codify protection of journalism and newsgathering

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

Jaden Amos   TikTok personality journalists continue to rise

Sarabeth Berman   Nonprofit local news shows that it can scale

Gordon Crovitz   The year advertisers stop funding misinformation

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

Wilson Liévano   Diaspora journalism takes the next step

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

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Journalists productively harness generative AI tools

Anthony Nadler   Confronting media gerrymandering

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

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

Alexandra Svokos   Working harder to reach audiences where they are

Susan Chira   Equipping local journalism

Francesco Zaffarano   There is no end of “social media”

Delano Massey   The industry shakes its imposter syndrome

Jakob Moll   Journalism startups will think beyond English

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

Larry Ryckman   We’ll work together with our competitors

Kaitlyn Wells   We’ll prioritize media literacy for children

Karina Montoya   More reporters on the antitrust beat

Simon Galperin   Philanthropy stops investing in corporate media

Barbara Raab   More journalism funders will take more risks

David Cohn   AI made this prediction

Elite Truong   In platform collapse, an opportunity for community

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

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

Bill Grueskin   Local news will come to rely on AI

Masuma Ahuja   Journalism starts working for and with its communities

Julia Angwin   Democracies will get serious about saving journalism

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

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

Alex Perry   New paths to transparency without Twitter

Basile Simon   Towards supporting criminal accountability

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

Dana Lacey   Tech will screw publishers over

Joanne McNeil   Facebook and the media kiss and make up

Janelle Salanga   Journalists work from a place of harm reduction

Emma Carew Grovum   The year to resist forgetting about diversity

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

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

Sue Robinson   Engagement journalism will have to confront a tougher reality

Peter Sterne   AI enters the newsroom

Cory Bergman   The AI content flood

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

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

Mario García   More newsrooms go mobile-first

Emily Nonko   Incarcerated reporters get more bylines

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

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

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

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

Peter Bale   Rising costs force more digital innovation

Gabe Schneider   Well-funded journalism leaders stop making disparate pay

Esther Kezia Thorpe   Subscription pressures force product innovation

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

Ståle Grut   Your newsroom experiences a Midjourney-gate, too

Alex Sujong Laughlin   Credit where it’s due

Walter Frick   Journalists wake up to the power of prediction markets

A.J. Bauer   Covering the right wrong

Christoph Mergerson   The rot at the core of the news business

Eric Ulken   Generative AI brings wrongness at scale

Raney Aronson-Rath   Journalists will band together to fight intimidation

Rachel Glickhouse   Humanizing newsrooms will be a badge of honor

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

Parker Molloy   We’ll reach new heights of moral panic

Eric Nuzum   A focus on people instead of power

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   More of the same

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

Brian Stelter   Finding new ways to reach news avoiders

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

Leezel Tanglao   Community partnerships drive better reporting