Journalism confronted a unique set of challenges in 2023. Artificial intelligence experienced an unprecedented boom this year, allowing journalists to automate some tasks and shift focus onto reporting projects — but also raising concerns about the accuracy and prominence of AI-generated content. The wars in Gaza and Ukraine magnified the ongoing threats to journalists around the world.

All the while, the industry also contended with more familiar challenges, including calls to bolster newsroom diversity, revitalize local news, and protect democracy, among others. This year, Nieman Reports’ feature stories have highlighted all these and more. Here are five of Nieman Reports’ top features from 2023: 

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A Billionaire, A TV Network, and the Fight for a Free Press in India
In late November 2022, NDTV, one India’s remaining broadcast networks willing to report critically on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, announced a shake-up in its ownership: Its founders Prannoy and Radhika Roy were stepping down, and billionaire Gautam Adani would take their place. Vidya Krishnan breaks down how the Roys’ “hostile takeover” came to happen — and the immense stakes the purchase has for the free press and democracy in India ahead of next year’s critical elections. “NDTV was one of the last bastions of free speech within the Indian broadcast media. Its sale will have far-reaching implications for India’s media ecosystem, which has progressively become less free by many measures over the last decade,” Krishnan writes.

Smart Ways Journalists Can Exploit Artificial Intelligence
From image generators like DALL-E to the chatbot ChatGPT, artificial intelligence experienced a boom this year — and journalists are beginning to grapple with what its new popularity will mean for the profession. While some have shared concerns that AI would replace human writers and riddle the internet with plagiarism and misinformation, Gabe Bullard spotlights the ways newsrooms are using AI to bolster their work. Because they can translate stories into multiple languages and send personalized newsletters to subscribers in a fraction of the time it would take a human, AI has allowed publications to expand their reach, better engage their audiences, and free up journalists’ time to focus more on their reporting.

Why Retired Journalists Are Jumping Back into the Profession
As newsrooms across the country have downsized, consolidated, and shuttered, one group hopes to fill the gaps left in their local communities: retired journalists. Jon Marcus writes about these veteran journalists who, instead of moving to retirement communities and settling in beside the pool or playing pickleball, are stepping into news voids nationwide, launching local and regional media outlets or serving on their boards, mentoring young journalists, advocating for press freedoms, and continuing to gather and report information not otherwise being covered. As Peter Lewis, managing editor of The Asheville Watchdog, told Marcus: “Our overarching goal was to establish a foundation for journalism that will outlive us.”

Forced to Flee: How Exiled Journalists Hold the Powerful to Account
From censorship and harassment to imprisonment and torture, threats to journalists around the world haven’t let up in 2023. In some cases, these conditions have forced reporters to leave their home countries out of fear for their lives or those of their families and friends. But as Celeste Katz Marston reports, they’ve also set up independent newsrooms in exile, striving to hold power to account even from afar. Katz Marston profiles six of those exile newsrooms, detailing the inventive ways they’ve continued their reporting — all while dealing with language barriers, visa issues, and lingering trauma. “We do our job while we can. When it becomes impossible, we’ll think about something else,” says Roman Anin of IStories, the Russian site that is now based in Prague.

Newsrooms Want to Diversify. These Programs Can Help
As newsrooms look to diversify — and at a time when diversity in education and employment is under attack — journalism is seeing a new wave of programs to help launch the careers of young journalists of color. These programs range from one-day bootcamps to two-year fellowships, and are launching everywhere from legacy media companies like The New York Times to small nonprofits like Chicago’s Investigative Project on Race and Equity. Jon Marcus writes about how these programs are opening up the gates to the profession and allowing newsrooms to better cover their diverse audiences.

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