The past year saw exciting advances in journalism: notable transnational investigations that exposed corruption, Facebook Live feeding the ongoing online video boom, and the rise of niches like mobile, “selfie,” drone and chat bot journalism, to name but a few.
Over at IJNet’s Facebook page, we want to hear what you think will be some of the most important trends journalists will face in 2017 (feel free to tweet your thoughts at @IJNet if you’re Facebook shy). Those who comment have a chance to win a US$10 Amazon gift card in a random draw!
To get you started, here’s a few of our thoughts on what may lie ahead for global journalists in 2017 — what are we missing? Let us know!
1. Fact-checking will get more creative.
Much has been written about how false news stories proliferated on Facebook throughout the U.S. presidential election. Fake stories were also widely shared via social media in other countries like Brazil during times of political change.
Rising concern over fake news will prompt media outlets to emphasize fact checking in a wide range of ways — linking to primary sources, creating comprehensive online databases, live tweeting, and so on. Even if some observers are rightfully concerned that we now live in a “post-fact” world, there’s still much that journalists can do to show their readers that facts still exist, and they matter.
For one thing, journalists can make transparency a more routine part of their job (so long as it doesn’t put their sources in danger). If journalists make a habit of explaining to their readers how, exactly, they put their stories together, this would go a long way in creating more engaged readers who can see the evidence for themselves. One tool that could become a major boon for fact-checkers is one that has been around for years — DocumentCloud, which allows users to upload thousands of pages of searchable documents. As criminal justice reporter S.P. Sullivan told told Harvard University’s Nieman Lab, DocumentCloud is “a way of building trust with the audience. I am saying to them: Don’t just take my word for it. Here, look: facts!”
2. Closed chat groups will become an increasingly important reporting and news distribution tool.
With more than 1 billion WhatsApp users worldwide and similar tools like Signal and Telegram on the rise, journalists will continue experimenting with ways they can use chat apps to access their audience. As the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University found in a 2016 report, the proliferation of closed chat groups also means that journalists may need to become more adept at finding “digital fixers” who can grant them access to certain chats. In one example reviewed by the Tow Center, these “digital fixers” could be particularly useful if journalists are trying to reach out to protesters who are using closed chat groups to organize.
3. A record number of journalists will get sued and in many cases, imprisoned.
As the Committee to Protect Journalists noted, 2016 saw a record number of journalists jailed. We doubt this trend will reverse itself in 2017. The past few years have seen literally dozens of smaller, independent digital news outlets pop up across the globe. In order for these smaller media outlets to survive, it will become more important than ever to ensure they have the pro bono legal support they need to be able to publish reporting that makes a difference, without fear of debilitating libel lawsuits.
Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Jon S.