Many cohort members said that the news media’s reach — or the lack thereof — worries them. They’re thinking both about access to information in underserved communities as well as the tendency towards news avoidance amongst younger people.
For Zeljka Lekic-Subasic of the Office of the Eurovision News Exchange for Southeast Europe,, the challenge is about attracting readers while continuing to provide quality news. “As a news manager, but also a person who passionately reads and follows the news all the time, a deliberate decision of an increasing number of people, youngsters especially, to completely avoid news is what keeps me up at night,” she writes.
Similarly, Felicitas Carrique of the News Product Alliance, says the most pressing issue for her “is the fact that people are not interested in consuming journalism or news content and actively avoid it. We won’t find business models if we can’t make journalism relevant and valuable to people again.”
“News consumers are increasingly avoiding news,” echoes Marc Basté Alujas of Grup Edicions de Premsa Local in Spain. “We have been aiming for the wrong goals for too long, and now we are struggling to understand what kind of journalism is essential (or at least relevant enough) for the communities we are committed to serve.”
Alex Mena, of the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald in Florida, worries that the spread of misinformation makes it hard to understand “the difference between a news organization and someone just typing their thoughts and opinions. Being able to get the facts to readers is vital to the future success of journalism and connecting with our local community is a big part of that,” he writes.
In Atlanta, Blake Stoner of news agency Vngle is concerned about the impacts of news deserts. “What scares me is how often I speak to news veterans who say they haven’t even heard of the term and even more who don’t understand the severity of it,” he says. “If we don’t address news deserts we can’t truly have an equitable holistic grasp on what’s happening.”
And Carolina Arteta Caballero of Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa in Bogotà has seen how the lack of news can have devastating effects. “I have worked in news deserts in Colombia, and I have seen how the lack of strong local media leads to more corruption, inequality, poverty and even violence,” she writes. “In the end, it leads to a weaker democracy.”
At Vad Vi Vet in Sweden, founder Per Grankvist is worried about reaching his audience wherever they are. “We’re trying to make sure we get the best possible non-paid and paid reach on as many platforms as possible with our fact-based explanation of the hottest issues and summaries of political parties,” he says.
Others are thinking about the need for innovation in the industry, from digital transitions to user-focused products to alternative distribution methods.
For Ariel Zirulnick at KPCC/LAist in California, innovation means rethinking the very idea of a story. “Unless we are willing to make substantive changes to what kind of information and storytelling we produce at the local level, we’ll never grow our audiences beyond the traditional news consumer — and there aren’t enough of them to keep us relevant or sustain us,” she writes.
Similarly, Pankaj Mishra at FactorDaily in India says innovation is calling him away from digital spaces and into the real world. “I now believe that the best form for journalistic stories is to tell them in physical spaces, with smaller audience communities,” he writes. “These can be ticketed events, where a reporter shares stories fresh from the field.”
Meanwhile, Walter White of Sesh Communications/The Cincinnati Herald in Ohio, is worried about the opportunities for local news, like “whether or not small niche publications can survive the digital transformation of the publishing business.”
At Mediengruppe Oberfranken in Bamberg, Thomas Zeller is thinking about how to bring innovation to a large company. “How can digital change be systematically organized in an editorial office — or better — in a media company?” he asks. “And what is the best way to do this with a positive culture of innovation?”
And at The Chronicle of Higher Education in Washington, D.C., Laura Krantz is concerned about healthy organizational structure. “I think a lot about the little things,” she says. “By that I mean the often-invisible systems and processes inside our news organizations that allow them to thrive, or hinder their ambitions.”
Similarly, Prabha Natarajan of The Wall Street Journal in New York is worried that complacency is keeping leaders from building nimble teams and engaging products. “Teams should constantly be able to ask questions such as ‘why’ and ‘why not’, and be willing to go beyond traditional patterns of journalism,” she says. “But how do you motivate journalists and product staff to do that on a consistent basis?”
Lucy Nicholson of Reuters in London is focused on how innovation can be used to tackle big editorial issues like climate change. “I am looking to explore how innovative visual journalism can communicate the urgency of climate issues to engage audiences and inspire solutions to the climate crisis,” she writes.
And Evi Dettl at Germany’s Radio BUH is balancing progress with ethics. “How can we be innovative and survive in this industry while staying true to the traditional values of our trade?” she asks. “The sheer oversupply of information floating around everyone these days makes it hard to stand out, be credible and thorough yet fast enough to keep up with the pace of media these days.”
And, of course, many news leaders are thinking about sustainability. They’re worried about both the finances of running news organizations and the challenge of attracting good talent.
Marc Gendron of Les coops de l’information in Quebec says that he worries about balancing his outlet’s goals and needs. “Everyday, I try to find balance between our mission to provide world-class local news to the highest number of people to whom it might matter and our need to gain some revenues from the delivery of these news,” he writes.
And Jin Ding of the Center for Public Integrity in Washington D.C. says the questions that keep her up are about the lack of training for investigative reporters and editors, and what they will mean in a few years. “How many stones are left unturned, who will be holding local officials accountable, who will be in top national media and speak for the already undercovered population and underrepresented communities?” she asks.
For Madeleine Bair of El Tímpano in Oakland, California, the lack of variety in the media landscape is troubling. “A healthy media ecosystem will be as diverse, adaptive, and networked as a lush forest,” she writes. “And yet, I fear that we have not created the conditions for that diversity to thrive. Lack of seed funding, philanthropic risk-taking, and adaptive support systems mean that some of the most innovative solutions to create the journalism communities need may never see the light of day.”
Amber Payne at The Emancipator in Boston is also worried about the lack of diversity in the news media. “I’m concerned about how we hire and retain emerging talent who may not have had the traditional pedigree or path, but who have the sheer will and talent to succeed if given the chance,” she writes.
And Veronica DeVore of SWI swissinfo.ch in Bern is thinking about the implication of “rapid-fire information cycles and financial pressure,” she says. “So many news organizations are in a position of trying to do more with less, and the fallout can lead to a lack of breadth and depth in coverage and feed public distrust in the media.”
Rebecca Klein of New York Focus says that she is deeply worried about “brain drain in journalism. Media is a deeply difficult profession to work in right now. I want to be part of building a place where people can build a career, where they can provide for their family, where they can receive adequate benefits, so that they might focus on thinking, reading, talking to people, doing their very important job,” she writes.
And Sipho Kings of The Continent in Johannesburg says that journalism’s existential questions are always bouncing around his head. “This is the addiction that is journalism in this moment,” he writes. “Our problems are gigantic, and also really exciting. Which is to say that everything keeps me up. But we need money to keep doing the interesting things.”
For Rodney Gibbs of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the big question is “whether we journalists can dig out of the hole we’re in,” he writes. Trust, innovation, reach, news deserts, misinformation and sustainability are all on his mind. “We cross from the land of insomnia to nightmares. Despite my dour outlook, I’m hopeful that our innovation, willingness to listen to and work with our audiences, and doggedness will fill that hole and even help us thrive.”