We’re a little late to the listicle party, but want to still weigh-in on the 10 journalists and journalism-related trends to watch in 2014. Here’s the who, what and why. Take a gander and leave us your thoughts.
Roland Martin is probably one of the busiest journalists in the business. Starting at 6 a.m., he helps a daily morning radio show on Radio One; after that he anchors a daily morning news show on TV One. Armed with a substantial web and social media presence, Martin is one of the few journalists of color who isn’t just talking the talk about building a brand, he’s done it. We’d like to see if his brand-building prowess translates into overall success for the network, especially at a time when most all other black-oriented news shows have gotten canceled.
Al Jazeera America is a news organization that has assembled the most diverse news talent in the business: From the only covered co-host on U.S. television, Malika Bilal, to former PBS anchor Ray Suarez, the network has the goods — and the cash flow — to make itself a success. Despite all its promise, however, Al Jazeera America’s ratings are so low that “they are considered a ‘scratch’ and aren’t reported by Nielsen,” The New York Post revealed in November. Part of the reason is because of obstacles telecom companies (i.e. Comcast and others) have erected that are impeding the network’s reach. The Qatar-based network recently launched a new YouTube channel in hopes of regaining some of the viewers it may have lost when Al Jazeera America’s executives transitioned from an online-only presence to cable television. Whether this is a strategy that will work is a question we hope gets answered in 2014.
Matt Thompson, Manager of Digital Initiatives at NPR, launched Code Switch in April 2013 with a $1.5 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In December NPR announced it had received $17 million in grant money, some of which will go to operate Code Switch. It will be interesting to see what Thompson does with the additional funding. With its blog and cross-pollination into other NPR programs, Code Switch has cracked open the door to new audience members for NPR, but it has not yet become destination reading for many. Thompson and NPR haven’t quite broken out of the box. In fact, NPR can be quite confined and stuffy at times. Let’s see if this money can help overcome, at least the perception, of that stuffiness.
Don Lemon broke free of the restraints of conventional journalism in 2013 and fully embraced opinion journalism, not only on CNN where he had been a reporter, and later a weekend anchor, since 2006, but on the Tom Joyner Morning Show where he reaches a primarily black audience. Not all of Lemon’s opinions, however, have been welcomed by radio listeners or TV viewers. Lemon’s move poses two important questions for 2014: Will this more personality-driven journalism over straight news reporting be a blessing or a curse for Lemon’s career, and can respectability politics take you to the next level?
UNITY: Journalists for Diversity witnessed the departure of its second largest contingent in 2013 when the National Association of Hispanic Journalists voted to leave the alliance in October (the National Association of Black Journalists, the largest association for journalists of color, left UNITY two years earlier). 2013 was also the year UNITY elected David Steinberg its first white president, prompting questions of whether the organization had permanently lost its way. UNITY’s founders, NABJ’s Will Sutton and NAHJ’s Juan Gonzalez, promptly pronounced UNITY dead. None of this has stopped Steinberg and the remaining alliance members – the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association, or the Asian American Journalists Association — from moving forward with plans to re-establish itself as the premier journalism advocacy organization lobbying for diversity inside newsrooms and in news coverage. We’ll get a good idea as to whether UNITY can live up to its promise in 2014.
Matt Lauer had a tumultuous 2012 that carried over into 2013 with ratings of NBC’s Today show flattening and viewers still angry with him (right or wrong) over the perceived poor treatment his former co-host Ann Curry suffered. Lauer’s $25 million contract is up this year and we’re interested in seeing whether he stays or goes. The contract isn’t even up yet and already media observers are picking his replacement. Stay tuned…
Katie Couric lost her host gig at ABC, but got another at Yahoo News. We’re not sure whether this was the smartest business move on Yahoo’s part, but it will be interesting to see how Couric translates her mega legacy media skills to Yahoo’s mega digital news platform. Eric Deggans of National Public Radio described this merger as two monster brands “in search of a purpose.” This may very well be true. Still, we’re anxious to see whether Couric and Yahoo can help bolster each other’s staid media profiles, or sink under each other’s weight.
Robin Roberts‘ sun rises just as Matt Lauer’s and possibly Katie Couric’s could be setting. ABC’s Good Morning America host just signed a new contract worth up to $20 million a year for up to five years and came out publicly about being gay. Roberts, who underwent a bone marrow transplant last year, expressed gratitude in a recent Facebook post for her restored good health and acknowledged the support of colleagues, friends and family including long-time girlfriend, Amber. Good Morning America is the most popular morning show on network television, and Roberts is one of the most popular morning show anchors. How bright will her star shine?
English-language Hispanic media is on the rise. One need only look to ABC and its creation of Fusion in partnership with Univision to see that this is true. The Miami-based network, which targets young Latinos, launched in late October but hasn’t caught fire just yet (like Al Jazeera, viewership is so small that it isn’t measured by Nielsen). But ABC and Univision are betting big “with original programming including a live morning show, news programs anchored by Univision veteran Jorge Ramos, a lineup of young broadcasters and a humor block created in Los Angeles that includes a puppet talk show and animation helmed by the former head writer of The Daily Show,” reports The Miami Herald. If Fusion catches on the way Latin soap operas have in the US, then consumers will certainly see more Hispanic news media populate the landscape.
HuffPost LIVE just gets it: Diverse hosts, including co-founder Marc Lamont Hill, and expert panelists, incorporation of community engagement through social media tools including Google Hangouts and Twitter, and cutting-edge topics. With its truly integrated approach to news, HuffPost LIVE is receiving a growing and record number of video views, according to Poynter Online: “A record number of video views in November (just under 109 million, 510 percent more than this time last year, Sekoff said), which beat the previous record set in October, which beat the previous record set in August.” Although HuffPost LIVE has yet to make a profit, it is also receiving increased attention from advertisers. Poynter reports that Citi, for example, just renewed its sponsorship of a music series, with events scheduled to run through April.