The business of journalism is terrible. That’s been the case for a while now, as a drumbeat of pessimism accompanies a struggling industry; this year has been historically bad. Storied newsrooms scaled back. Outlets closed. Thousands lost their jobs.
And yet. This issue of CJR is about the “And Yets” among us, the persistence and creativity beneath the stagnation. We recognize that times are tough and could get tougher still. But it’s also important for all of us—as an industry and as people who believe in what we do—to acknowledge pockets of excitement and promise. Hope is an obligation for journalists: hope that our stories matter, that they resonate with an audience, that our work has value.
For too long now, our hope has been lodged in the idea that we could sustain—or resurrect—the past, our focus stuck on legacy newsrooms and existing frameworks. But nostalgia never has been much of a business plan, and it won’t work for journalism. It’s time now to come to terms with a future that isn’t about revival, but about reinvention.
That’s our mission with this magazine, to showcase the thinkers, models, and approaches that point toward a new way in our profession. This issue includes:
- Advice, compiled by Feven Merid, our staff writer, from more than a dozen journalism pioneers, about how we might pave a path into the future.
- Danny Funt on direct-to-consumer journalism at a time when everything comes by way of a personal message delivered to your inbox: voicemail, of a kind.
- An exploration by Emily Russell into how audio journalists are experimenting with new models to produce, distribute, and monetize their work.
- Will Tavlin, who spent time at New York magazine’s The Strategist, on the industry’s embrace of product reviews, and how they rate as service journalism.
- A profile by Mary Retta of Ebony magazine and its attempts to transform a legacy title into an all-encompassing brand devoted to “moving Black forward.”
- Megan Greenwell on a new funding model, through which local philanthropists are supporting community news-you-can-use.
- Hamilton Nolan on the labor arguments over artificial intelligence in media.
- And finally, some experimenting of our own, integrating machine-generation tools into our process of creating illustrations. Darrel Frost, our art director, explains what worked and what didn’t.
The through line of everything you’ll see here is optimism. Not everything will turn out well, certainly, but there is, at least, the appeal of trying. And, at this point on our industry’s trajectory, that’s really all anyone could hope for.Kyle Pope was the editor in chief and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review. He is now executive director of strategic initiatives at Covering Climate Now.