For Lack of a Crystal Ball: A Dialogue on the Future of Journalism

December 9, 2016  • Communications and Society Program

As 2016 comes to a close, the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program invites you to join us as we celebrate and reflect over an exciting year marked by thoughtful, constructive discussions on a range of issues. The following “2016 Year In Review” series offers highlights from the various programs as well as insight into 2017 programming. For more information, please visit our homepage and or follow us on Twitter or Facebook

In the last decade, journalism has emerged as the poster child for industries deeply transformed by digital technologies and the rise of networks. New business models, new practices and innovative technologies flowed into the modern day newsroom. As journalists embark on new ways to connect with readers, questions regarding the very nature and standards of the industry create new tensions.

The Dialogue on the Future of Journalism, held in August 2016, sought to critically examine the impact of new technologies and the changing nature of the profession. While discussion ranged broadly over the course of the two-day roundtable, it kept circling back to a central question: How can journalism adapt and survive? The group voiced concerns over the impact of new forms of expression (such as videos), verification of facts, and the growing number of mobile, global readers. Two areas of particular inquiry were the development of innovative news labs, and expanding the diversity of newsrooms. Diversity is often understood as relating solely to gender and ethnicity, but participants highlighted the need to have a plurality of viewpoints and lived experiences, too; a more robust range of reporters can cover a wider gamut of stories.

This Dialogue is even more important in light of recent developments, such as the debate over fake news after the election and increasing public distrust of the media. Journalism faces a momentous test. Its role and value in our society is in question. Again we ask, how can journalism adapt and survive? Communications & Society, Executive Director, Charlie Firestone, offers some guidance in his post outlining 5 Steps to Rebuilding Trust in the Media. We anticipate 2017 to be a pivotal year, and we look forward to unpacking these complex issues. For more information on our Future of Journalism dialogue, please visit our website.