Journalists worldwide covered no shortage of critical issues in 2022.
High-profile developments like Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and the U.S. Supreme Court decision rolling back reproductive rights in the country dominated headlines. With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, too, reporters spent another 12 months keeping communities informed about the latest variants, in addition to other health threats.
Meanwhile, journalists continued to face censorship and violence both online and in-person.
Navigating these challenges, journalists innovated to engage readers, and combat the worrying spread of mis- and disinformation.
Here’s what ICFJ Knight Fellows learned in 2022, and tips they shared to help their fellow journalists navigate the new year.
My experience in leading FactsMatterNG, an initiative restoring information integrity on digital platforms, has made me realize how the internet is being weaponized for information disorder. Social media is the new battleground for electoral politics as influencers and political handlers manipulate the algorithms of platforms to delegitimize opposing voices and push smear campaigns against journalists and active citizens. Here’s what I suggest for journalists in 2023:
- Pay attention to gendered misinformation, especially as it relates to topics on women’s participation in politics and reproductive health.
- Reach underserved audiences by publishing content in local languages that connect with cultural nuances at various community levels.
- Take fact-checking content to where younger audiences are, such as by experimenting with humorous content on platforms like TikTok.
- Strive to combat mis- and disinformation on encrypted social media platforms by testing models that have been used successfully in Latin American and Asian markets.
- I have seen a lot of burnout among journalists in the past few years. It is okay to take a break eventually. Don't try to overreach too much and overwork yourself. Try focusing on your mental and physical health when you can.
- Don't be afraid of experimenting in new areas. I know there is (yes, still) a stigma among journalists that they need to be great at everything, especially writing. But there are great journalists working with SEO, analytics, content strategy and social media. Reporting is the fuel of any news initiative, but those supporting roles are greatly important to keep the journalism machine running and thriving.
Journalists need to rethink Web3 and recognize the potential of this technology.
- After the collapse of UST and the bankruptcy of FTX, one may think that [blockchain] technology is dead. But most of the turmoil we experienced in 2022 was about money, which is only a part of what Web3 is about. Apart from minting NFTs, Web3 has a lot of potential, ranging from keeping content from being erased or edited by anyone, to running social platforms that can resist control by any single entity.
- The latter is now especially critical. When the world learned that Twitter suspended journalists' accounts [for reporting on the movements of Elon Musk’s private jet], even the United Nations expressed concern. Although Musk reinstated the accounts later, the drama shows how easily our freedom of expression can be undermined. Now that we have shed away the become-a-millionaire dreams, the time is right to see how we can capitalize on Web3 for our common cause: to inform the public freely, safely and independently.
Collaboration is the key element of journalism today. It can increase your impact and improve your ideas. Think about who you can partner with and design a simple and clear workflow, then go for it!