This article was published by Al Jazeera America on December 3. Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Qatar appear to have blocked the article outside of the United States because it is critical of an ally of Qatar, so we are making it available here to international readers. Read our accompanying piece, Al Jazeera Blocks Anti-Saudi Arabia Article.
Saudi Arabia Uses Terrorism As An Excuse for Human Rights Abuses
By Arjun Sethi
This is the year the Facebook newsfeed share ~officially~ cedes [some of] its traffic-driving prowess to the messenger-as-platform share, including to its own WhatsApp.
I am not interested in changing the world. I’d rather change the way we talk about it. No, this is not a manifesto for underachievers: To change the world, we need to change the way we think, talk, and write about the institutions, values, and people that give shape to this world.
Truth be told, prognostication is as much about setting out a wish list as it is about grounded predictions. But if you’re reading this, you’re media-savvy enough to know that, so I’ll approach things in that spirit.
When we talk about the future of journalism and wring our hands about “saving the news,” the conversation invariably turns to clicks and shares and ad revenue, rather than the more sorely needed conversation: Is journalism actually serving the public?
Two experiences in 2015 — researching the state of crowdsourcing and mentoring CUNY’s first class of social journalism students — opened my eyes to some striking possibilities for demonstrable journalistic impact.
In 2016, we should expect to see — or perhaps it’s hear — more podcasts as more newsrooms find success with audio content.
This year, news organizations will learn that if they don’t prioritize diversity and inclusivity, their best people will leave for organizations that do. The most incisive journalism will be from newsrooms that have a diverse staff — and top leadership that reflects that diversity.
In the coming year, journalists will experiment with and debate emergent forms of virtual reality and drone witnessing. Virtual reality and drone technology will both continue to challenge journalists on their ideals of objectivity, their ethics of representation, their perceptions of distance and immersion, and the connections they seek with audiences. In short, journalistic witnessing will be increasingly mediated in new substantive ways by technology. Like previous technological leaps in journalism, this evolution will be dependent on the people who created it and how audiences use it. As John Durham Peters wrote, “witness is the paradigm case of a medium: the mean by which the experience is supplied to others who lack the original.”
Back in November we wrote about the preliminary findings of our research into vicarious trauma in the newsroom. In that piece, we illustrated how vicarious trauma is an issue which newsrooms and their managers need to start taking seriously when they have journalists who use newsworthy photographs or videos captured on smartphones by people around the world. That journalists were scared about admitting to their managers that they are having a hard time dealing with some of the more distressing images they see day in, day out.
Some doors will open and some doors will close in 2016.
One door that will open even wider and become more welcoming will be that of social media — and how readers discover and then decide to read stories in our newspapers and magazines.
In 2016, journalists will recognize that they have to be activists — if they want to call themselves journalists, that is.
In the era of hyperconnection, social classes are divided by speed. Those who manage and operate the speed will also be managers of resources, readers, and customers. In the archaic age of newspaper distributions, the papers that arrived earlier at the kiosks were the first to be bought, and that more grew both readers and advertising. The problem was that they had to build their own distribution systems to be first.
Yes, as we all know, technology makes the work of reporting and distributing news easier than ever before. Hey, I worked in a newsroom without The Internets back in the day myself, pouring over a paper map to see where the hell that zoning board meeting was being held, busting out the phone book to find a source’s number, and hoo boy I’m glad we aren’t there anymore. (Okay, there was one really slow computer in the corner that could crank up AltaVista after a while.)
Not such a long time ago, Facebook launched Instant Articles. And next year, Google launches its open-source version, Accelerated Mobile Pages (or AMP).
2015 saw the return of the paywall as a respectable source of revenue: Niche sites like Pando went all-in, The New York Times hit 1 million digital subscribers, and ad-free digital behemoths like Netflix continued to charge past their traditional brethren. In 2016, we’ll finally stop wringing our hands over whether or not the strategy works and embrace the evidence: People — lots of people, of all ages, incomes, backgrounds, and nationalities — will pay money for good content.
New roles have emerged in journalism to support digital products that integrate data and engagement. Those with web and mobile development skills have been called upon to create special project sites, mobile apps, and interactive user experiences. Most creators of these media products haven’t been considered journalists and have largely been ignored in journalism research and curriculum. These product management roles are often viewed as technology-support, not fundamental to the journalism being produced. But these public-facing products help develop new audiences and provide opportunities for participation, contribution, and interaction with the media.
It’s been two weeks since I sat, mouth agape, brow furrowed, head shaking in disbelief at what I was witnessing on the television monitors in my newsroom. Reporters from major networks had entered the apartment of San Bernardino shooting suspects Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik and were rifling through its contents — on live television.
When my kids turned on the hotel TV the other day, they couldn’t find Netflix.
As you are most certainly aware, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump recentlysuggested that Muslims be banned from entering the United States for a while. In this country, that kind of talk is not illegal — we’re protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees our right to free speech, to give voice to whatever we might believe to be true or wise.
I can’t wait for 2016 — the year that podcasting fully matures into the disruptive mass medium it was always meant to be. The foundation for disruption exists: a wildly exploding diversity of voices, format, listening experiences, and routes to monetization.
In 2013, it was common for publishers to be thinking not only “digital first” but also “mobile first.” By 2014, most content was being consumed this way — on mobile devices.
As most people with children in their lives probably do, I worry about the world my nieces, ages 4 and 7, will face in the future and how they’ll navigate it. I worry about it for some of the obvious reasons: the consequences of climate change, the economy, war, and violence. But another cause of my concern is less common: I’m concerned that news about those all-important topics will not be readily available or even obvious to them and their peers as they grow into adults who, in a previous generation, would be almost predestined to be heavy news consumers.
After shoveling stories across platforms and mastering the art of the “Five things to know for today” listicle, local news organizations will finally begin to “get it” on mobile in 2016. The focus will turn to crafting unique experiences within mobile apps that truly take advantage of the features and benefits of the smartphone platform.
Virtual reality, web videos larded with kinetic text and puppies, oh, and mashups of Olympic swimming, “something green,” and risk management for avery interested prospect targeting millennials. These are all things publishers, consultants, gurus, and ad sales folks will say I need in 2016.
Much has been written about the rise and demise of blogging and the ability for small publishers to thrive, both editorially and financially. Recently, we’ve seen some exciting examples of independent writers forging a new value proposition for their readers. They’ve been able to assemble the tools — however imperfectly — to publish stories, develop and audience and build a business. People like Ben Thompson, whose Stratechery has become a must-read for those in the tech business, and Tim Urban, who has crashed through the definition of blogging onWait But Why, where he recently published a 90,000-plus word epic series on Elon Musk.
Whether you dismiss it as hype or not, the truth is virtual reality technology is coming — and faster than you think. So the biggest challenge the journalism industry faces in 2016 is how can they invest and innovate on an emerging technology that hasn’t gone mainstream yet.
Big data, interactive graphics, and data visualizations will still be cool, but they’ll no longer be the coolest kids on the block.
It’s time to stop using the c-word. “The comment section” has moved in people’s minds from being an empty box on a website into a viper-filled pit of hell. We need to start again. We need to do better.
The Republican presidential debate this week was headlined by confrontations: Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz clashed over immigration and ISIS, while Donald Trump and Jeb Bush argued over whether Trump would be a “chaos candidate.”
Writing for The Guardian from Las Vegas, reporters Sabrina Siddiqui and Paul Lewis wrote that Trump and Bush “scarcely rose above the level of playground taunts about who was toughest,” while Rubio and Cruz engaged in “a series of fiery exchanges.”
I first discovered Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium in 1995, 10 years after he’d begun writing them for Harvard’s Norton Lectures series. He died unexpectedly just before he was set to embark from Italy to Cambridge to deliver them, after completing five — Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, and Multiplicity.
Journalism is on the comeback trail. It is dawning on everyone that great tech without great content (read: journalism) doesn’t get you there. Standing out is what really matters, especially in a world where the supply of “content” is nearly infinite. Volume doesn’t create value — quality does. Tricks and tropes work for a while, but eventually original reporting, great storytelling and indispensable information win. That’s journalism.
WeChat, WhatsApp, Line, and their brethren never played a big role in my daily life until I moved to Asia earlier this year. The extent to which they became indispensable, because communication happens almost exclusively inside their ecosystems, exposed a missed opportunity for Western news organizations. But I expect that to change. 2016 is the year we’ll see more media companies get serious about chat apps.
How far has the newspaper trade fallen?
It’s been another depressing year for those who value robust local news. Yet Sheldon Adelson’s reluctant outing as the new owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal caps 2015 in a way that seems both oddly appropriate and further disheartening. Is it the story of one odd newspaper buy, or is it more telling about the state of local news in this country?
After this past year of innovation and tumult, the next twelve months are coming into focus. It’s now clear that in 2016, the original promise of the Internet will be totally, fully realized. Completely.
The problem with metrics is that we really only compete with ourselves, at least on a daily basis. With only our own numbers for comparison, we’re always #winning.