Good morning everyone, and happy Thanksgiving. The Poynter Report will return next Monday, but before going off to celebrate the holiday, I asked some of my Poynter colleagues to pass along what they are thankful for in the media world this year. Here’s what they said. And, below that, I offer up what I’m thankful for in this rather bizarre 2020.
Enjoy, and talk to you next week.
Kristen Hare, editor, Locally:
Last year, I was grateful for local newsrooms that refuse to quit. After a really tough year, I still am. This year, I am also grateful for the journalists who are speaking out and demanding that the same values that illuminate journalism are also applied inside the newsroom. I’m thinking of the Black journalists who spent years making the case to their editors and The Associated Press that Black deserved to be capitalized.
Journalists in newsrooms around the country have pushed their newsrooms and leaders to recognize how they’ve failed their journalists and communities in the past, like with the Los Angeles Times.
They’ve pushed for progress that’s more than lip service, like at The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune and the San Antonio Express-News.
They’ve brought light and attention to issues that haven’t yet been fixed, like at St. Louis Public Radio.
And when their newsrooms have failed to take a hard look at why this matters, they’ve taken their time and talents elsewhere, like in Pittsburgh.
I’m sorry that so much more of this work has to be done. I’m grateful for everyone who’s willing to do it.
Al Tompkins, senior faculty and group leader for broadcast media:
I am thankful for the journalists who bravely and thoughtfully covered the protests following George Floyd’s death. From May 28 to June 1, we counted 140 incidents of police attacking journalists. The Press Freedom tracker adds to that number.
I am thankful for the journalists who stood up to loudmouths and bullies during political coverage and despite being harassed and demeaned, the journalists still reported their stories fairly and accurately.
I am thankful for journalists who pressed for accountability when the government moved too slowly responding to the pandemic.
I am thankful for newsroom leaders who don’t just say they “value the safety of their journalists above everything else”; they prove that is their priority by providing security and equipment to get the job done safely and then give journalists the airtime and page prominence to tell important stories.
I am thankful for news executives who stiffened their spines to the blowing economic winds and found ways not to furlough or lay off workers.
I am thankful for journalists who have produced and reported TV and radio newscasts from their bedrooms and closets.
I am thankful for newsroom managers who compassionately led newsrooms through hurricanes, elections, wildfires, a pandemic and post-election chaos.
I am thankful for viewers, listeners and readers who want journalists who will report the truth, not some version of the truth that isn’t too upsetting to their preconceived notions.
I am thankful for people who are willing to pay for subscriptions, underwriting, commercials and grants that make journalism possible.
I am thankful for public servant elected officials who do not see journalists as enemies.
I am thankful for journalists who have invited Poynter teaching into their newsrooms, their virtual conferences and conventions this year.
I am thankful that you journalists who are doing the best you can while caring for your kids and your parents. I just hope you can take better care of yourselves. We need you more than you probably know.
Cristina Tardaguila, associate director, International Fact-Checking Network:
I am thankful to the fact-checking community. On Jan. 24, when only 17 people had died from COVID-19, fact-checkers from more than 30 countries decided it was time to lower competition and fight health disinformation as one team. I am also thankful for each one that has collaborated with the #CoronaVirusFacts alliance and all its products: four chatbots, three databases and dozens of beautiful infographics. 2020 was, undoubtedly, a terrible year, but it brought fact-checkers together. Our community is now faster, more precise and more impactful.
Ren LaForme, managing editor, Poynter:
I’ve reached an age where I probably worry more about my parents than they worry about me. It’s gotten worse during this pandemic. The 1,100-mile distance between us has become a shroud through which I’ve struggled to protect them from COVID-19 and the maelstrom of misinformation around it.
To that end, I’m even more thankful than ever this year for The Buffalo News. It has kept me up-to-date on the latest coronavirus trends, lockdown information and recommendations for the Western New York region that I can share with my parents. The News’ reporting on the virus across five counties has been a true community service, even as the publication went through a difficult transition in ownership from Berkshire Hathaway to Lee Enterprises. Though I left Buffalo in 2010, I remain a happy subscriber to our regional treasure.
Doris Truong, director of training and diversity:
I’m thankful for discomfort. Stay with me here. For generations, journalists of color have been subjected to systemic disadvantages in our industry. This has caused talented professionals to feel unsupported and to abandon journalism when we most need their perspectives to help us establish connections with our audiences. What’s happening now in newsrooms throughout the U.S. feels like a true and lasting commitment to positive change. It’s underway because the persistent discomfort has become too severe to continue ignoring. I’m cautiously optimistic as Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American journalists get overdue elevation — to roles on the masthead, to lead anchors in primetime, to hosts on podcasts and to beats reporting on communities that have for too long been afterthoughts. A lot of work remains, but I’m grateful for the journalists of color who came before me as well as our current generations committed to creating inclusive newsrooms that value the wide range of human experiences.
Barbara Allen, director of college programming:
I’m thankful for America’s student journalists, their advisers and their professors, who continued to commit to journalism this year despite a lack of newsroom/classroom comradery.
I’m thankful for Elizabeth Smith at Pepperdine University, who never fails to step up for students and peers alike; to Vince Filak, who blogs tirelessly about issues central to student journalism; to David Swartzlander, who continues to fight for collegiate journalists even in retirement; for The Lead editor Taylor Blatchford for her unwavering commitment to showcasing student journalists; and to student editors like Yacob Reyes, Jaden Edison, Nicole Asbury, Oyin Adedoyin, Mary Chappell, Deanna Schwartz, Sophie Ojdanic and all the other college media editors who’ve endured this semester with a forced grin and unwavering leadership for their fellow students. What you’re doing matters. Hang in there and know lots of people are grateful to you!
Amaris Castillo, Poynter contributor:
It’s been an overwhelmingly difficult year. We’ve watched and read about journalists and photojournalists getting assaulted for doing their jobs. I’m thankful that we continue to have a free press. I’m thankful for journalism powering through, and for the storytellers who carry this industry with care and a great deal of respect because there are people who depend on their work. I’m thankful for the journalists of color who may be the “only one” in their newsroom and use their place to report on communities whose residents are undercovered and underrepresented. I’ve been there. Keep at it.
I’m thankful for aspiring journalists and those in their first full-time reporter jobs, who carry a vibrancy and eagerness that’s very much needed and appreciated in this industry. I’m thankful for my husband and family who have supported me personally in all things journalism. I also can’t forget to thank the many, many readers and supporters of journalists, including the readers who have supported my work through the years. There are many, but here are a few: Dawn, Leeann, Mark, Cassy, Timna, Harold, Suzi, Jen, Gia, Rob, Bobby, Mary, Colleen, Tom, and Kerry. Thanks for choosing to stand behind journalists and also inform us when we get something wrong. You are appreciated.
Mel Grau, senior product specialist and editor of The Cohort at Poynter:
I’m particularly grateful to visual journalists this year. To photojournalists, like Beth Nakamura at The Oregonian, who risked health, safety and harassment to provide a window to the world. To graphics reporters, like Harry Stevens at The Washington Post, who made sense of complicated datasets so I could make decisions about my life. To artists and creative directors, like D.W. Pine at Time Magazine, who continually broke tradition to capture the year that was 2020.
Because I work for Poynter, I’m lucky enough to talk to these journalists about their work. Their efforts — and sacrifices — are noticed, appreciated, and essential.
Katy Byron, MediaWise editor and program manager:
I’m thankful for all the journalists, including the fact-checkers and disinformation beat reporters, around the world who have spent countless hours scrolling through social media and shooting down disinformation, misinformation and conspiracy theories this year related to the U.S. election, the pandemic, social justice protests and everything in between. It is a thankless and grueling job to spend so much time and effort glued to laptop and phone screens throughout the pandemic when everyone’s screen time has been through the roof. On top of that, to continually read, watch and listen to content filled with hate, lies, and an endless amount of information that makes you shake your head is a special service to this country — to shed light on all those falsehoods is helping keep our democracy together.
In particular, I am thankful for the very hard and exceptional “dystopia beat” reporting and work of PolitiFact and specifically Daniel Funke; the NBC “crack reporter team” of Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins and their relentless reporting on the dangers of Facebook Groups; BuzzFeed News disinfo Queen Jane Lytvynenko and King Craig Silverman and their persistent tracking of trends that became must-read daily content for my team on Twitter; The New York Times’ Kevin Roose and the “Rabbit Hole” podcast, which felt like my whole world in a podcast; BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh and Media Matters’ Alex Kaplan for their work on QAnon chaos; CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan for his fieldwork at campaign rallies; and, of course, the hard work of the MediaWise team including Alex Mahadevan, Alexa Volland, Heaven Taylor-Wynn, our fall interns Abby Vervaeke and Jake Sheridan. And last but not least, I am thankful for the MediaWise Teen Fact-Checking Network and MediaWise Campus Correspondents warriors whose work inspired me every day of this year and reminded me of the impact the MediaWise program is having and that young people care about what is true and what is false online — and that gives me hope.
Tom Jones, Poynter senior writer and author of The Poynter Report:
I’m thankful for two national newspapers in particular — The New York Times and The Washington Post — for their tireless and inspiring work that, on a daily basis, produces must-read journalism that either informs, provokes thought and/or entertains.
I’m thankful for local papers everywhere as they continue to do important work during the most trying times most of us can ever remember. I have a special shoutout to my local paper — the Tampa Bay Times, which I read every day not just because I’m an alum or that Poynter owns it, but because it provides me with the reporting I need to know as a resident of St. Petersburg, Florida. It’s critical journalism, something that local papers across the country consistently and constantly provide — and it has nothing to do with who is in the White House or whatever they’re yelling about on cable news.
I’m thankful for the Sunday morning news shows, especially NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CBS’s “Face the Nation,” ABC’s “This Week” and “Fox News Sunday.” The conversations they have are critical in understanding the political landscape and environment of the moment.
I’m thankful for the evening national news and their anchors — ABC’s David Muir, CBS’s Norah O’Donnell, NBC’s Lester Holt and PBS’s Judy Woodruff — for the all-encompassing news they provide and the clarity and objectivity with which they provide it. Evening news is seeing a bit of a renaissance in 2020 — an encouraging sign that citizens still crave news. And network news has met that challenge.
I’m thankful that we live in a country where citizens can choose to watch either Rachel Maddow on MSNBC or Sean Hannity on Fox News.
To all the reporters of the White House press corps who did their jobs despite constant insults and resistance from President Donald Trump and those in his administration, such as press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Despite these obstacles, the White House press corps conducted itself professionally and admirably.
I’m thankful for the coverage The Atlantic has done on the coronavirus, especially the masterful work of writer Ed Yong.
I’m thankful for ESPN for providing sports coverage that is a nice break from all the serious stories we’ve faced in 2020. And I’m thankful for ESPN for covering those serious stories, too.
I’m thankful for those who cover the media in exemplary ways, such as CNN’s Brian Stelter, Oliver Darcy and Kerry Flynn; The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan, Erik Wemple, Sarah Ellison, Jeremy Barr and Paul Farhi; The New York Times’ Ben Smith, Michael M. Grynbaum and Edmund Lee; Axios’ Sara Fischer; The Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani, Variety’s Brian Steinberg and Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo. Also, there are sports media columnists Andrew Marchand of the New York Post and Richard Deitsch from The Athletic. I know I’m leaving out lots of others, many of whom help us understand that, no, the media is not the enemy of the people.
I’m thankful for my Poynter colleagues. Not just for helping me with today’s newsletter, but for the guidance, support, encouragement and inspiration that they provide me each and every day.
And, finally, thank you for reading The Poynter Report, and for the feedback — both positive and negative — that you give me every day. I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter as much as I enjoy writing it.
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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