December is a wonderful time for predictions for the coming year. For journalists in a business that is in flux, it’s perfect. The Nieman Lab asked a couple dozen big thinkers to weigh in on predictions for 2013. For the most part, I like them. For the most part, I think they are hopes, rather than expectations of reality. Dan Gillmor even acknowledges that in his. “(As always, this reflects my hope more than my expectation. Call me an optimist.)”
Some of those I think are more hopeful than realistic:
Keli Goff on race: “As a result, the media will likely be privy to much more candid discussions of complicated policy issues — many of them having to do with race in some way, such as gun violence, the epidemic of black male unemployment, race-based health disparities, racial profiling, and many others — and as a result it will be more likely to cover them.” It would be cool if that is so, but grappling with complicated policy discussions isn’t the media’s forte these days.
Miranda Mulligan on the rise of the robots: “Perhaps we will build more, better, stronger robots that write some of our stories for us. In fact, friends of Knight Lab — Narrative Science — have made significant strides in automated story generation since 2010. Each year, there seem to be more and more startups and projects in the market of automating stories through datasets. Perhaps we will build systems that learn our user’s social media behavior, providing us with more significant understanding of our audience’s desire for news. Perhaps we’ll learn more about how our readers perceive us, based upon the specific words we write. Perhaps we’ll get machine-learning design and publishing systems.” Perhaps is right. I can see it happening — although 2013 seems too soon — but seeing many journalism organizations having the money and wherewithal to make it work? In 2013?
Mark Katches on the end of the editorial: “Newspapers will start to taper off writing editorials. They’ll find that they can be a leader in their communities by engaging audiences, moderating forums, holding events and curating round table discussion — while avoiding the pitfall of alienating a significant percentage of their audience by telling people what to think.” They might taper off writing them, but it’ll be because publishers want to save the cost of writers.
Michael Maness on breaking news: “What is needed are newsrooms that can filter, verify, curate, and amplify social media for their audiences, in addition to journalists reporting in enterprising and contextual ways.” Yes, but will many make that move in 2013? I don’t think so.
(Actually, there are so many Nieman Lab predictions that it would have been helpful for it to have been filtered a bit more.)
Nicholas Carr is right when he says: “The future is uncertain, yes, but the future has been uncertain for a while now. The basic dynamics of the news business didn’t change much from 2010 to 2011 to 2012, and I suspect they won’t change much in 2013 or, for that matter, in 2014.”
Mindy McAdams is right when she says: “Put yourself in the shoes of the audience. This is the real challenge for journalists in 2013. I’m not sure if journalists will do it or not, so this is not exactly a prediction. I do know it’s necessary. It’s more necessary than a business model, because if no one wants what you’re selling, you won’t be able to sell anything.”
Fiona Spruill does a good job of explaining what mobile is where it’s at…and why most media organizations will have trouble doing a damn thing about it.
Laura Amico is right when she says: “These are examples of what the birth of mainstream “solutions journalism” looks like from the ground floor of crisis. It’s reporting that seeks to build context and community around a politically and emotionally charged subject. It is journalism that engages in meaningful conversation. My prediction for 2013: What we learn from our approach to the Sandy Hook shooting will inform our approach to many key social issues on the front burner in 2013: immigration, healthcare, and now gun control.” The problem is that this, like so many other movements in the media bias, will not move as fast as it needs to.
There are many more great ideas there. And whether they come true in the next year is essentially irrelevant. I wish every journalist would read them and think about them. It could spark ideas and action everywhere.