Looking Back at Journalism in 2017: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
2017 wasn’t very kind to the media.
The signs were there from the beginning.
After a contentious presidential race, newly-elected President Donald Trump wasted no time continuing his war with the media. The White House press corps and other members of the media were on the defense. Any journalist was fair game.
Referring to the media as the “opposition party,” the president threatened to move the press corps out of the West Wing and demanded an investigation into unflattering news coverage of him.
It started with CNN. Then other media outlets were labeled “fake news” by the president. He tweeted about fake news 155 times as of early December, says The Washington Post.
Turns out, a majority of Americans agree with the president.
According to Poynter’s 2017 Media Trust Survey, 44 percent believe the media makes up stories about the president more than once in a while. Suddenly, those reporting the news became the news.
Traditional methods for covering politics were out the door. Efforts to cover the White House increasingly became challenging as the president took to Twitter at all times of the day and night, often contradicting official statements by the White House press secretary, his cabinet, and other staff. Tweeting became the go-to platform for politicians, pundits, and partisan attacks.
To counter cries of fake news, media organizations, platforms, and universities unleashed some key innovations in 2017.
Sexual harassment scandals
The story that sent the biggest shock waves through the industry involved sexual harassment claims against two trusted names in media — Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer.
The stories broke within 10 days of each other. We watched as their morning show co-anchors struggled with the news live on-air. Rose was fired by CBS and PBS; Lauer was let go by NBC.
In early November, NPR news executive Mike Oreskes resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. Most recently, Vice Media suspended two executives after harassment allegations.
How far does this story go?
Columbia Journalism Review reached out to 149 newsrooms to check in with management for its piece What we found when we asked newsrooms about sexual harassment.
“But in three weeks, we heard back from not a single one of the 149 newsrooms we contacted to participate,” CJR says.
No one should be surprised by journalism’s sexual harassment problem, says The Washington Post. Even Nieman Journalism Lab weighed in with its #NowWhat piece.
Changes and more changes
Politics aside, the media is a business and several media outlets landed on tough financial times.
You probably saw some of these news items:
- Mashable’s valuation dropped, and it was sold to Ziff Davis.
- BuzzFeed announced plans to cut 100 positions.
- Vice missed revenue projections.
- Discovery Communications announced plans to acquire Scripps Networks Interactive for $14.6 billion.
- Meredith is buying Time Inc. for $1.8 billion.
- Rolling Stone was sold.
Major media outlets struggled to capture ad revenue, including The New York Times whose ad business dropped 16 percent.
On the flipside, others prevailed: millennial female site Bustle looks to increase revenue 50 percent, according to MarketWatch.
Another millennial women’s media publication caught our attention mid-year: The Washington Post launched The Lily.
Amy King, editor-in-chief and creative director of The Lily, says the publication allows for a deeper dive into stories impacting women. Its writers are women, and coverage has included mental health, sexual abuse and harassment, breast and ovarian cancer, pregnancy in the workplace, and the gender pay gap.
Video love fest is over (maybe)
In 2017, digital publishers bet on a pivot to video and came up short.
As it turns out, while video might be the biggest media trend, it may not be as lucrative as publishers hope, says Los Angeles Times.
FoxSports.com reportedly lost 88 percent of its audience after making the pivot. Mic’s traffic dropped significantly, too.
One issue is that organizations pursuing video are entering an increasingly crowded marketplace. To lure both audiences and advertisers, publishers will have to produce very high-quality video, which is costly and time-consuming.
It’s become an industry joke, says The Atlantic. “Today, the pivot seems less like a business strategy and more like end-of-life estate planning.”
Some, however, think the shift to video ultimately will prevail.
“Video is simply a better, more engaging storytelling medium for most people today,” writes Rafael Urbina, in a guest post for AdWeek. “If we look back in time, it’s no different than the shift from print to radio, and then from radio to TV.”
Time will tell that publishers with a digital-first approach will learn to scale and thrive in this new environment, Urbina concludes.
So what’s next in media? You can track the latest industry news, moves, trends, and updates on PR Newswire for Journalists.
Authors Brett Simon, Christine Cube, and Anna Jasinski manage audience relations for PR Newswire. All three writers are former journalists.