The media landscape underwent significant changes in 2023, marked by the ascent of AI, the decline of Twitter, and the eagerly awaited launch of the Press Forward fund to bolster local news outlets. Throughout the year, Nieman Reports covered topics such as the diminishing value of X/Twitter for newsrooms, the spread of misleading information during the Covid-19 pandemic, strategies for weathering layoffs, and more. As we approach the start of 2024, take a moment to revisit the top five opinion columns from Nieman Reports.
Six Months Ago NPR Left Twitter. The Effects Have Been Negligible
In the wake of Elon Musk’s controversial purchase of Twitter, NPR abandoned the website this April after the platform labeled it “state-affiliated media,” a move “that was at odds with Twitter’s own definition of the term” But NPR’s departure from Twitter resulted in only a 1 percent drop in web traffic, according to an internal memo, challenging the platform’s perceived value. “There were signs of social media’s waning importance … as well as predictions that the era of social media-driven news is coming to an end,” writes Gabe Bullard. “As [the] platform becomes less reliable — either editorially or technically — staying becomes more fraught. And as NPR has demonstrated, you may not be giving up all that much if you walk away.”
Correcting The New York Times on Trans Issues
In February, over 1,000 contributors to The New York Times signed an open letter to the standards’ editor condemning the paper’s coverage of trans issues. The next day, the Times ran an op-ed entitled “In Defense of J.K. Rowling” — the author known for making transphobic remarks online. “The paper reduced its critics to just a bunch of radical activists,” writes Issac J. Bailey in this op-ed for Nieman Reports. “It’s the kind of demeaning dodge Black journalists also know well. When we’ve demanded a higher-quality journalism, we’ve been demeaned as just being social justice warriors who don’t care about the craft we’ve dedicated our adult lives to perfecting.”
Three Years Later, Covid-19 Is Still a Health Threat. Journalism Needs to Reflect That
In this essay, Kendra Pierre-Louis takes sharp aim at legacy media’s ableist coverage of the ongoing pandemic. “The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and NPR … have amplified voices and arguments that helped create a narrative that not only pathologizes those who remain cautious about [Covid-19], but also fails to adequately convey the risks associated with Covid such that many people are unwittingly taking on potentially lifelong risks,” she writes. “Each Covid infection increases the risk of developing chronic health issues like diabetes — including in children — organ failure, stroke, heart conditions, kidney disease, and mental health problems.” Instead of publishing coverage that downplays the pandemic, editors can prioritize coverage from leading health experts, with immunocompromised communities in mind, Pierre-Louis argues.
Hey Journalists, Nobody Is Coming to Save Us
Katherine Reynolds Lewis, a long-time freelance journalist, has seen many business models come and go in the journalism world. “A typical cycle: News organizations launch with a big vision … they go on a hiring spree, and then it turns out they over invested or their strategy didn’t pan out, so they fall short of expectations and lay people off.” Lewis argues that in an era of mass layoffs, it’s up to each and every journalist to invest in strong networks and continual education to make their careers resilient enough to “ride the waves of this turbulent profession.”
Hard Truths About Reviving Local News
In the fall, the Press Forward initiative launched with much fanfare, pledging $500 million in support of local news. However, Ken Doctor writes that implementation and strategy are what will make or break Press Forward’s success in reviving America’s dying newspapers. In this essay, he delves into the nitty-gritty of business models, discussing where to prioritize funding and emphasizing the importance of not repeating mistakes of the past.