Wanted: Answers To These Recovery Questions

2021 is rebound time.

Good.

But where should local media focus on when it comes to its own recovery?

After enduring the pandemic and complicated upheavals of 2020, lots of rebuilding blocks exist.


Enter the American Press Institute with a well-done report released this week that presents seven questions “to help local media rebound in 2021.”

In essence, API is setting the roundtable for earnest conversations to spark improvements. In turn, newspaper trade associations can play key roles in bringing together newsrooms to figure out the best actions and then call attention to resulting victories.

“This report is meant to provoke those discussions and provide a starting point for the urgent work of rebuilding and reconceiving journalism in a way that recognizes our changed world,” author Jane Elizabeth writes.

Spring is a busy time for press association programs, so organizers would be wise to examine the API’s questions to shape them into conference themes, provocative workshops and idea exchanges. Here they are:

How will we hold onto the audiences we gained during the major news events of 2020?

How will we target and fight the most prevalent misinformation in our communities?

How will we rebuild understaffed beats like health, education and state government?

What will be our rapid response to the diversity, equity and inclusion issues within our own industry and in our community?

How will we build our ability to produce important investigative journalism?

How can we add more resources to our staff after years of layoffs and the potential for more?

How will we care for the mental health of our people?

The API report offers tips on how to get started tackling each question, elaborates on the issues, and welcomes advice that can be shared with all newsrooms. Read for yourself here.

The nonprofit educational organization’s mission is to transform news organizations for an audience-centered future. The intended jumpstart report makes the bold assertion that “…no media organization has been battered more than the local newsroom.”

It then describes a worrisome current state. “In many local newsrooms, conversations about rebuilding after 2020 aren’t happening, or are focused primarily on narrow questions such as how and when journalists will return to a physical newsroom.”

Newspaper associations are in the best position to help advocate for positive changes that uplift their members. Many are community newspapers that performed heroically during the pandemic.

I would add at least one question to API’s list to make it a nifty eight by looking out:

How can news coverage help communities recover and rebound so they also are healthy again?

After all, as the community goes, so does the newspaper’s future.

Relevance.

Thanks to API for sticking a fork in “a year of battering.” And for asking this:

What’s next?

–Tom Silvestri

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