Smart newsrooms will prioritize board development

“Many leaders focus their board efforts on traditional fundraising, audits, and budget approvals, but they miss opportunities to have their boards be true partners.”

Journalists and news organizations spend a lot of time thinking about deepening audience engagement. And many newsrooms are rightly focusing on building trust between management and staff, all in service of ambitious and impactful reporting. But we often lose sight of the need to engage more purposefully with one critical constituency — our boards.

We’ll see that change in 2023.

As more nonprofit newsrooms emerge — and commercial outlets look to make the jump to becoming nonprofits — newsrooms will start to focus on the role boards play in their success. Boards will help news organizations weather economic downturns, platform collapse, generational disconnect with audiences, and pandemic and climate preparedness.

Many leaders focus their board efforts on traditional fundraising, audits, and budget approvals, but they miss opportunities to have their boards be true partners. In 2023, newsrooms, particularly those in the nonprofit realm, will need their boards to:

Strengthen and diversify fundraising. Fundraising is table stakes for nonprofit boards, but fundraising models tend to remain static and don’t evolve past what was successful at the organizations’ inception. When a key benefactor or board director moves on, this creates existential risk for the organization. Nonprofit newsrooms will need boards that can be nimble and help diversify fundraising and revenue sources.

Galvanize newsroom culture and preparedness. Newsrooms will increasingly need their boards to help them develop more agile strategic plans, to attract and retain talent, adjust resources to align with goals, and undertake scenario planning. Part of this shift will require newsroom executives to help teams understand the role boards play and create opportunities for greater transparency between boards and the organizations they serve.

Share best practices from other industries. We will also increasingly see newsrooms bring leaders from other industries — including industries we might not think of as connected to journalism — to their boards to represent innovative thinking at the top of the organization. It will be particularly beneficial for newsrooms to understand best practices from other sectors that could provide inspiration for the challenges facing journalism leaders. Newsrooms should consider gaining board expertise from unexpected places — can Fortune 500 leaders who work for companies with excellent employee retention rates work with newsrooms to craft a plan to improve culture? Can CleanTok influencers help newsrooms create solutions-oriented content strategies?

Strong boards will consistently invest energy into understanding what drives the organization’s team and creating opportunities for them to thrive. It means getting your hands dirty to try to mend problematic relationships and interactions, creating pathways for meaningful feedback, and being generous with introductions, asking tough questions, and taking real steps to help leaders raise money to enable their visions.

Creating this deeper engagement between news organizations and their boards will lead to healthier, more stable newsrooms, which will yield more thorough and impactful reporting, which is ultimately the best outcome for news organizations and most importantly, audiences.

Sumi Aggarwal is a consultant who focuses on editorial strategy and was the editor-in-chief of Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting until September 2022. Annie Chabel is a consultant who focuses on business operations in nonprofit journalism, and was the COO of Reveal until 2022.

Journalists and news organizations spend a lot of time thinking about deepening audience engagement. And many newsrooms are rightly focusing on building trust between management and staff, all in service of ambitious and impactful reporting. But we often lose sight of the need to engage more purposefully with one critical constituency — our boards.

We’ll see that change in 2023.

As more nonprofit newsrooms emerge — and commercial outlets look to make the jump to becoming nonprofits — newsrooms will start to focus on the role boards play in their success. Boards will help news organizations weather economic downturns, platform collapse, generational disconnect with audiences, and pandemic and climate preparedness.

Many leaders focus their board efforts on traditional fundraising, audits, and budget approvals, but they miss opportunities to have their boards be true partners. In 2023, newsrooms, particularly those in the nonprofit realm, will need their boards to:

Strengthen and diversify fundraising. Fundraising is table stakes for nonprofit boards, but fundraising models tend to remain static and don’t evolve past what was successful at the organizations’ inception. When a key benefactor or board director moves on, this creates existential risk for the organization. Nonprofit newsrooms will need boards that can be nimble and help diversify fundraising and revenue sources.

Galvanize newsroom culture and preparedness. Newsrooms will increasingly need their boards to help them develop more agile strategic plans, to attract and retain talent, adjust resources to align with goals, and undertake scenario planning. Part of this shift will require newsroom executives to help teams understand the role boards play and create opportunities for greater transparency between boards and the organizations they serve.

Share best practices from other industries. We will also increasingly see newsrooms bring leaders from other industries — including industries we might not think of as connected to journalism — to their boards to represent innovative thinking at the top of the organization. It will be particularly beneficial for newsrooms to understand best practices from other sectors that could provide inspiration for the challenges facing journalism leaders. Newsrooms should consider gaining board expertise from unexpected places — can Fortune 500 leaders who work for companies with excellent employee retention rates work with newsrooms to craft a plan to improve culture? Can CleanTok influencers help newsrooms create solutions-oriented content strategies?

Strong boards will consistently invest energy into understanding what drives the organization’s team and creating opportunities for them to thrive. It means getting your hands dirty to try to mend problematic relationships and interactions, creating pathways for meaningful feedback, and being generous with introductions, asking tough questions, and taking real steps to help leaders raise money to enable their visions.

Creating this deeper engagement between news organizations and their boards will lead to healthier, more stable newsrooms, which will yield more thorough and impactful reporting, which is ultimately the best outcome for news organizations and most importantly, audiences.

Sumi Aggarwal is a consultant who focuses on editorial strategy and was the editor-in-chief of Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting until September 2022. Annie Chabel is a consultant who focuses on business operations in nonprofit journalism, and was the COO of Reveal until 2022.

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

Snigdha Sur   Newsrooms get nimble in a recession

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

Francesco Zaffarano   There is no end of “social media”

Janelle Salanga   Journalists work from a place of harm reduction

Rachel Glickhouse   Humanizing newsrooms will be a badge of honor

Sue Cross   Thinking and acting collectively to save the news

Al Lucca   Digital news design gets interesting again

Surya Mattu   Data journalists learn from photojournalists

Richard Tofel   The press might get better at vetting presidential candidates

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

Jonas Kaiser   Rejecting the “free speech” frame

J. Siguru Wahutu   American journalism reckons with its colonialist tendencies

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

Pia Frey   Publishers start polling their users at scale

Cory Bergman   The AI content flood

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

Kaitlyn Wells   We’ll prioritize media literacy for children

Josh Schwartz   The AI spammers are coming

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

David Cohn   AI made this prediction

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

Elite Truong   In platform collapse, an opportunity for community

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

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

Susan Chira   Equipping local journalism

Upasna Gautam   Technology that performs at the speed of news

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   More of the same

Brian Stelter   Finding new ways to reach news avoiders

David Skok   Renewed interest in human-powered reporting

Eric Thurm   Journalists think of themselves as workers

Tim Carmody   Newsletter writers need a new ethics

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

Mar Cabra   The inevitable mental health revolution

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

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

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Journalism education faces a crossroads

Raney Aronson-Rath   Journalists will band together to fight intimidation

Tamar Charney   Flux is the new stability

Ståle Grut   Your newsroom experiences a Midjourney-gate, too

Rodney Gibbs   Recalibrating how we work apart

AX Mina   Journalism in a time of permacrisis

John Davidow   A year of intergenerational learning

Kerri Hoffman   Podcasting goes local

Esther Kezia Thorpe   Subscription pressures force product innovation

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

Cassandra Etienne   Local news fellowships will help fight newsroom inequities

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

Alex Perry   New paths to transparency without Twitter

Jakob Moll   Journalism startups will think beyond English

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

Julia Beizer   News fatigue shows us a clear path forward

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

Ayala Panievsky   It’s time for PR for journalism

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

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

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

Victor Pickard   The year journalism and capitalism finally divorce

Simon Galperin   Philanthropy stops investing in corporate media

Basile Simon   Towards supporting criminal accountability

Peter Sterne   AI enters the newsroom

Sarabeth Berman   Nonprofit local news shows that it can scale

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

Sumi Aggarwal   Smart newsrooms will prioritize board development

Larry Ryckman   We’ll work together with our competitors

Alexandra Svokos   Working harder to reach audiences where they are

Joanne McNeil   Facebook and the media kiss and make up

Nicholas Thompson   The year AI actually changes the media business

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

Zizi Papacharissi   Platforms are over

Moreno Cruz Osório   Brazilian journalism turns wounds into action

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

Matt Rasnic   More newsroom workers turn to organized labor

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

Walter Frick   Journalists wake up to the power of prediction markets

Anita Varma   Journalism prioritizes the basic need for survival

Masuma Ahuja   Journalism starts working for and with its communities

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Journalists productively harness generative AI tools

Kirstin McCudden   We’ll codify protection of journalism and newsgathering

Joshua P. Darr   Local to live, wire to wither

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

Anthony Nadler   Confronting media gerrymandering

Gordon Crovitz   The year advertisers stop funding misinformation

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

Tre'vell Anderson   Continued culpability in anti-trans campaigns

Sarah Alvarez   Dream bigger or lose out

Ariel Zirulnick   Journalism doubles down on user needs

Alex Sujong Laughlin   Credit where it’s due

Kathy Lu   We need emotionally agile newsroom leaders

Brian Moritz   Rebuilding the news bundle

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

Jody Brannon   We’ll embrace policy remedies

Janet Haven   ChatGPT and the future of trust 

Taylor Lorenz   The “creator economy” will be astroturfed

Mario García   More newsrooms go mobile-first

Michael Schudson   Journalism gets more and more difficult

Laxmi Parthasarathy   Unlocking the silent demand for international journalism

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

Ryan Nave   Citizen journalism, but make it equitable

Dannagal G. Young   Stop rewarding elite performances of identity threat

Karina Montoya   More reporters on the antitrust beat

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

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

Barbara Raab   More journalism funders will take more risks

Amethyst J. Davis   The slight of the great contraction

Sarah Marshall   A web channel strategy won’t be enough

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

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

Jim VandeHei   There is no “peak newsletter”

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

Mael Vallejo   More threats to press freedom across the Americas

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

Dana Lacey   Tech will screw publishers over

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

Sue Schardt   Toward a new poetics of journalism

Wilson Liévano   Diaspora journalism takes the next step

A.J. Bauer   Covering the right wrong

Leezel Tanglao   Community partnerships drive better reporting

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

Lisa Heyamoto   The independent news industry gets a roadmap to sustainability

Julia Angwin   Democracies will get serious about saving journalism

Peter Bale   Rising costs force more digital innovation

Joni Deutsch   Podcast collaboration — not competition — breeds excellence

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

Sue Robinson   Engagement journalism will have to confront a tougher reality

Priyanjana Bengani   Partisan local news networks will collaborate

Khushbu Shah   Global reporting will suffer

Jessica Maddox   Journalists keep getting manipulated by internet culture

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

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

Emily Nonko   Incarcerated reporters get more bylines

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

Parker Molloy   We’ll reach new heights of moral panic

Delano Massey   The industry shakes its imposter syndrome

Gina Chua   The traditional story structure gets deconstructed

Anna Nirmala   News organizations get new structures

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

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

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

Eric Ulken   Generative AI brings wrongness at scale

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

Jessica Clark   Open discourse retrenches

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

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

Gabe Schneider   Well-funded journalism leaders stop making disparate pay

Ben Werdmuller   The internet is up for grabs again

Emma Carew Grovum   The year to resist forgetting about diversity

Joe Amditis   AI throws a lifeline to local publishers

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

Eric Nuzum   A focus on people instead of power

Jaden Amos   TikTok personality journalists continue to rise

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

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

Bill Grueskin   Local news will come to rely on AI

Alexandra Borchardt   The year of the climate journalism strategy

Christoph Mergerson   The rot at the core of the news business

Jesse Holcomb   Buffeted, whipped, bullied, pulled