In these highly politicized times, great journalism is needed now more than ever.
Journalism has changed so much even in the past year, and has experienced a complete revolution since platforms such as Facebook and Twitter came into power.
As people look for credible sources of information, a groundswell of support has sprung up for institutions such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. Newer platforms, such as Vox and Breitbart, have generated monster traffic numbers. We’re truly living in one of the most exciting, turbulent times of the written (and tweeted) word.
So what does the future of journalism look like?
New Platforms Will Rise
One of the most popular sources of political reporting in 2017 has been — you guessed it — Teen Vogue.
The pop culture and fashion magazine aimed at teen girls has joined the ranks of publications taking a hard line in political journalism. Teen Vogue has taken a completely different path from its parent publication and covered the rise of President Donald Trump and the protests at Standing Rock Reservation — but still reserved space for the celebrities beloved by its teen readership.
In December, Teen Vogue shared with The Atlantic that traffic was up 208 percent over the past 18 months.
I think we’ll see more of this in the future. In five years, some publication or website we’ve never heard of will be a beacon of light. Teen Vogue has illustrated that publications can still report on politics while not straying too far from their original message.
I think we’ll go back to a grade-school method of showing your work. As nearly every publication on either side of the political spectrum has been accused of peddling “fake news,” some degree of verification needs to be baked into the stories.
Would you believe that a savior of journalism is a website that translates the deeper meaning of song lyrics? Genius, the website that provides context for song lyrics, has developed News Genius, allowing publications to provide context and verification of claims.
Here’s what it looks like in action.
Through News Genius, publications can add a layer of context on top of the news story, allowing writers to provide reference for quotes and claims.
I think news platforms will start developing their own versions of this in-house, allowing readers to learn more.
The Death of the Comment Section
A wise person once told me that there’s nothing of value on the bottom half of the internet. Looking at the comments on 99 percent of YouTube videos, I’m inclined to agree.
While a free exchange of ideas is a dream for articles, that rarely happens in the comment section. Many news organizations have saved themselves the trouble of comment moderation and just 86ed the section altogether. This allows web editors to spend more time ensuring stories load properly and less time deleting endless spam-bot and flagrant comments.
NPR and Reuters are two examples of publications that have done away with comment sections, allowing people to comment on Facebook or share ideas on Twitter, instead of having to police a conversation on their owned space.
I think we’ll see more publications push the conversation onto Facebook and Twitter and away from their websites.
Greater Diversity in Newsroom Leadership
Much like the paper they print on, the leadership teams at legacy publications tend to be old and white.
A major factor in the rise of Teen Vogue has been the ascension of editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth, an African-American woman.
There’s also been a lack of diversity on the front lines, though publications are getting better about hiring candidates with diversity in mind. Among the 737 news organizations that participated in the American Society of News Editors’ annual survey, results showed that minority journalists comprised 17 percent of the workforce in 2016 — a 5.6 percent increase from 2015.
As local and national publications realize the necessity of different viewpoints, I think we’ll see that number continue to rise.
Facebook is Exposed as the Problem
Facebook CEO has said that his vision for the site is to be like a user’s personal newspaper.
While this idealism is admirable, the way Facebook operates runs counter to the way journalism organizations should gather news.
This is problematic, as two-thirds of Facebook users claim they get their news primarily from Facebook.
People on all parts of the political spectrum have realized that Facebook has done more than anything to create impenetrable bubbles. If you identify as liberal on Facebook, odds are you’ll go weeks before seeing a conservative news source. If you do, you’ll ignore it and the self-serving chain continues.
Facebook, as it operates now, physically cannot be a newspaper. Instead of providing a space for all kinds of viewpoints, the News Feed is just a feedback loop. Users see what they want, and see more from sources they’ve clicked on already.
The shift may be hard and drastic, but at some point, Facebook needs to take responsibility for its role in polarizing the country.