Advice for journalists heading into 2024, from ICFJ Knight Fellows

Jan 17, 2024 in Media Innovation
2024 on top of a metal stand

In 2023, journalists globally were tasked with accurately and sensitively reporting on critical elections, terrorism and war, the intensifying consequences of the climate crisis, and more. 

Two major conflicts, in particular –  the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas, and Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine – dominated news coverage. Meanwhile, AI emerged as perhaps the year’s trendiest topic, prompting journalists to consider how the technology might disrupt the industry and fuel the spread of disinformation, among other consequences. Journalists also continued to navigate heightened levels of censorship and violence

Against this backdrop, ICFJ’s Knight Fellows pioneered innovative news initiatives to amplify underreported narratives, combat disinformation’s spread, build networks to connect journalists and enhance their reporting, and more. 

We asked them what they learned in 2023, and for their topline advice for fellow media professionals as we start the new year. Here’s what they said: 

Chani Guyot

My experience leading The Human Journalism Network in 2023 leaves me with these top lessons:

As journalism struggles with reader distrust, the threat of platforms and the erosion of its business model, it is important to join forces for quality journalism to improve its reach and impact. Raise your head, look around you and find the right people, media outlets and organizations to collaborate with.

Learn how to pay attention in a distracted world; you can start by reading “Look: How to Pay Attention in a Distracted World." The context in which we operate as media and as professionals is changing every minute. The only way to reach your “north star” – your mission – is to readjust your path by interacting with other people and circumstances.

Connect communities: Your newsroom is a community. Your audience is a community. Your fellow professionals are a community. Your job is to connect with them, and be a valuable member by sharing your experience and learning from them.

Laura Zommer

2023 was the year of the AI explosion. It revived fears about how technology can make producing disinformation cheaper and more accessible to a greater number of bad actors. 

However, as someone who’s worked in the world of fact-checking and data journalism for more than a decade, I want to tell you that AI can also be a critical resource for small newsrooms. Small media organizations need to use all of the tools available to them to react quickly to disinformation and produce content that is cost-effective and presented in innovative formats.  

One area where AI innovation is essential is in improving the detection of disinformation in Spanish. At Factchequeado, with the help of Chequeado’s development team, we are working on an AI tool precisely for that, which we hope will also serve our more than 60 media partners across the U.S., located across 20 states and Puerto Rico.

With U.S. presidential elections just around the corner, the key for media organizations and reporters is to be trusted by their audiences. It will be essential for us to collaborate, listen to our audiences, build community and create relevant content that addresses their information needs.

Fabiola Torres

In 2024, when everyone is going crazy about AI, journalists have to continue working on what they have control over.

Recover connection with your community. Quality journalism in 2024 will depend on those community ties, on clarity about who we serve and why. Specialized media, like Salud con lupa, focus on the people we serve – communities united by geography, identity, or an issue area –  to help us forge connections and establish trust.

Redefine what news for your community is. Our journalism comes in forms that go beyond inverted pyramid articles, breaking news or long-form reports. We [conduct investigative reporting] and we are also focused on service, solutions, actions and needs.

Learn to work with new technologies instead of fearing them. We are already learning the advantages of AI tools to automate processes that save resources and time for small newsrooms.

In Latin America, against all odds, journalists are, with limited resources and in circumstances of crisis, continuing to fight to maintain journalism that serves the people.

Photo by BoliviaInteligente on Unsplash.