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Nieman Lab Predictions for 2019

4 min read

Each year, Harvard University's Nieman Lab asks media and journalism professionals to make predictions about the year ahead. It's a useful barometer for the media industry zeitgeist, and true to form, 2019's predictions are all worth a read.

For the first time, I was asked to contribute. That piece is here:

In 2019, big tech companies will respond to overwhelming public opinion and lawmaker concerns, fundamentally changing the way they view privacy. Browsers will block third-party tracking by default. New legislation, inspired by Europe’s GDPR, will prevent invasive apps from spying on your calls and contacts. The adoption of always-on microphones in the nation’s living rooms will begin to slow. As revelations about technology’s role in political wrongdoing become increasingly serious, the surveillance capitalism that has defined the mobile internet era will come to a halt.

Angèle Cristin asks that newsrooms don't just consider the tech industry's use of algorithms, but their own as well:

From their use of invasive tracking systems to their reliance on real-time web analytics and their dependence on social media platforms for distribution, newsrooms are deeply enmeshed in the algorithmic world, as I have written elsewhere. To date, newsrooms have not lingered on this fact. Unlike the glory of the resistance to Trump or the breaking news of Facebook’s mishandling data, the co-dependency of news organizations and algorithmic technologies has remained a dirty topic for most journalists.

Francesco Marconi, who collaborated deeply with Matter while he was at the Associated Press, advocates applying human-centered techniques to journalism:

Iterative journalism begins with people, but it looks beyond just demographic data to understand how individuals feel and what they need when seeking news. Knowing someone’s age, gender, and what article they just read might tell journalists something — but it doesn’t tell them how to approach a story in the way most relevant for members of a certain community.

An Xiao Mina contemplates the death of consensus:

In 2019, let the idea that we’re seeing the death of truth die. What looks like the death of truth is actually the death of consensus, and a broader transition to a world of dissensus nudged along by a wide variety of media outlets online, on television and radio, and in other forms of media. Misinformation spreads most effectively in this environment because someone, somewhere will find information that fits an existing worldview, and it’s that deeper worldview that’s much harder to change.

Roberto Hernandez has a warning for bigots that I particularly hope comes true:

If you have said something racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic in a professional setting — whether being at work, an industry event or listserv — but don’t see it as a big deal…we see you. And we will replace you.

And Steve Grove, Director of the Google News Lab, predicts that tech's work with journalism will be measured and assessed:

The public conversation on this topic is reaching a fever pitch. Issues that were once just discussed at news industry conferences by experts are now being discussed at dinner tables by families and friends. And regulatory conversations, highlighted by the EU copyright directive in Europe but spanning governments around the globe, are challenging the framework of how tech platforms host or link to news content. If and how people and governments shift their thinking on how digital news content should be discovered and distributed will in turn affect the momentum and appetite that tech companies have for the news space — and ultimately what news users will be able to access via tech platforms.

There's so much more. Every piece is worth reading and absorbing. The full index is here.