Wall Street CEOs and banks alike are grappling with our economic future in 2023, with daily predictions of a recession (or not) fluctuating. U.S. local and national media outlets are preparing for extensive coverage of the 2024 U.S. presidential election, extremism and democracy. One of the largest legacy newsrooms in the world has announced a significant restructuring of its international operations (read: downsizing) in the next few weeks. It seems the advertising revenue just isn’t there. What we’ve seen happen when media outlets make cuts in decades past will come back once again: international bureaus will close, coverage will consolidate, and global reporting will suffer.
The work we’ve done as an industry in recent years to step away from parachute journalism by building new models and institutions to support global local journalists as reporters and editors will be affected. Which, in turn, will affect the quality of coverage — and the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation — available to U.S. readers and audiences.
The industry has documented the spread of fake news in U.S. elections extensively. But there aren’t enough Pinocchios or Daniel Dales to combat potential false leads on TikTok, Twitter, or cable networks here in the U.S., let alone upcoming elections in Nigeria, Pakistan or Myanmar in 2023. Yes, we still see coverage of Ukraine and protests in Iran, but we miss so much more. For instance, we hear hardly anything about Afghanistan, where the U.S. spent 20 years. Next year, will we know what restrictions the Taliban has extended to local media organizations, or how it has allowed the continuation of spread of misinformation? It’s unlikely.
U.S. audiences will be less informed about the world. What happens as the world’s second largest economy, China, decides to open up or remain closed under a zero-Covid policy next year? That decision will impact inflation, energy prices, global consumer spending, and interest rates. But coverage of that decision will be limited because many newsrooms just don’t have the funds.
Just as importantly, the pivot toward ad dollars and wall-to-wall U.S. election coverage could deal a blow to the strides our industry has made in recent years, acknowledging we are better served as journalists and consumers of news when journalism reflects the communities we cover. We’ve worked hard as an industry to hire an East Africa bureau chief from Kenya, see U.S. national newsrooms partner with mighty local-global ones, train local reporters to become correspondents in Delhi and, generally, moved away from calling regional veteran journalists fixers. Yes, there is still a long way to go, but the erosion of the work many independent, nonprofit, and a few legacy and corporate newsrooms have done will diminish the quality of coverage would, frankly, bring us back to some very bad journalism practices and bad journalism.
Global news coverage will depend in 2023, in part, on philanthropy, memberships, sponsorship. and new forms of revenue to continue, to support, and double down, on the growth of new journalism models, new business models and new newsrooms as our storied institutions turn toward Washington D.C. and inwards Most importantly, we must hold ourselves, as an industry, to account next year.
Khushbu Shah is the head of development for Rest of World, a nonprofit publication that covers the impact of tech outside the West.