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NPR's 2024 reporting priorities

Carlos Carmonamedina for NPR Public Editor

At the start of each new year, we contact journalists at NPR to ask about their reporting priorities.

Why? Because journalists everywhere face the perpetual challenge of dividing their time between responding to the news of the day and reporting out new and important stories that no one else is telling. It's hard to overstate how difficult this balancing act is for both individual journalists and for newsroom leaders who must guide entire teams of reporters.

Many journalists and news organizations are competent at covering breaking news and daily developments. Less common are the newsrooms that dig deep into a topic or reach for groundbreaking reporting. That's because it takes more journalistic skill and stronger leadership to do those deeper stories.

Embedded in the promise of public media is to go beyond the obvious stories of the day and give people a fresher and wider look at the world. Journalists and newsrooms that don't have a plan to get to that level never even get close.

So we ask the question every year, because we want to give NPR's audience a peek into how the newsroom is gearing up to tell important stories. This year, we heard back from six different NPR journalists.

We are also shining a spotlight on NPR's State of the World podcast, a great source for a look at international news.


We ask NPR one question about how the work comes together.

What are NPR's coverage priorities in 2024?

Interviews by Emily Barske Wood

Benjamin Swasey, voting editor:

"The top priority for us is, of course, the 2024 election. While our colleagues on the Washington Desk will focus on candidates, campaigns and the issues motivating voters, the voting team will cover how people cast ballots and how elections are run, and the partisan and legal fights over those rules. We'll monitor threats to elections and those who administer them, from actors both foreign and domestic, and we'll report on how misinformation is affecting the election landscape, especially as former President Donald Trump continues to spread baseless claims about widespread fraud. As ever, we'll aim to tell these stories through voices that are diverse both demographically and geographically.

The voting team takes its public service mission seriously, and so we're excited to continue to help Americans understand how their elections work. U.S. elections are decentralized, with each state and territory having its own rules, and that can add to feelings of confusion around this important civic duty. So often we employ explainer stories to educate our audiences about aspects of voting, such as why polling places sometimes run out of ballots, or why it's better these days to think about 'voting season' rather than a single 'Election Day.' Offering this clarity can help prevent bad information from taking stronger hold."

Julia Simon, climate solutions reporter:

"A big part of my job is helping listeners and readers figure out what climate solutions are real, what's a distant dream, what could work better, and what's false advertising. This year we'll continue to decode climate solution buzzwords so that audiences can better understand what they're hearing from governments and companies. I'm especially excited about a few investigations coming out this year — one in the U.S. and one international. In 2024, our climate solution coverage will remain grounded in the stories of everyday people — stories that, I hope, give our audience a sense of agency."

Andrea Hsu, labor and workplace correspondent:

"2023 was a big year for labor, as we saw a large number of private sector workers — from Hollywood writers and actors to Kaiser health care workers to Big 3 autoworkers — strike for better pay, benefits and working conditions. In 2024, I'll be watching whether the big wins at the bargaining table translate into viable union campaigns elsewhere. As we've seen with Amazon and Starbucks, winning a union election is only a first step. Getting to a first contract is another battle, one that workers at those companies are still mired in.

As for the other part of my beat — workplaces — I'm going to continue exploring how artificial intelligence is changing people's jobs in ways big and small."

Scott Horsley, chief economics correspondent:

"The top priorities on my beat [in 2024] will be following the evolution of the economy, with a side of politics. Does inflation continue to moderate? Does unemployment remain low? And how do people's perceptions of the economy shape the 2024 election?

My job always involves a lot of data. But what I'm most excited about is hearing from people living through this unusual economic environment and what it means for them."

Steve Drummond, senior editor and executive producer, head of the education reporting project:

"In the coming year we're hoping to take a look at the chronic absenteeism that, since the pandemic, has educators and parents around the country worried. In both urban and rural settings, schools are struggling to make sure that students make it to school — especially the small percentage of students who miss not just one or two days, but many. Extensive research has shown that students who miss 15 or 20 days in a school year are at a much higher risk of not passing their grade, or not graduating from high school. Yet the mental health issues, as well as the isolation and disruption of their daily lives, that students faced in the pandemic years have made attendance a major challenge.

It's an election year, and we'll continue to look at civics education and the ways schools are seeking to educate the next generation of students about the media, about misinformation and how their government works. And we'll follow the news there as well, tracking for our audience the candidates' policy positions on education.

And finally, we'll continue to report on student debt and the Biden administration's efforts to relieve some of that debt and ease the burden of the more than 40 million student loan borrowers."

Eric Deggans, TV critic and media analyst:

"The priorities on my beat for [2024] are pretty simple. Hollywood will be ramping up production again, after strikes by writers and performers hobbled the industry for much of 2023. So we'll have to keep a close eye on which projects, series and programs survived the strikes, how they might change as they come back and what that will say about the industry. How will major awards like the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes change? How will artificial intelligence, which was such an important issue for both actors and writers guilds, surface in programming? Can Hollywood maintain and increase diversity, or will we see more stories centering marginalized groups canceled amid shifting priorities? And will issues of workplace abuse and lack of compensation get better, or will we find the new pacts haven't limited these issues as much as intended?

Media will face a boatload of change in 2024. Streaming services will increase prices and streamline services to show Wall Street [that] Netflix isn't the only platform which can make money. Cable TV systems will see more fights with media companies that provide their channels — like Disney's fight [last] year with Charter/Spectrum — trying to hold onto subscribers and profits while viewers cut their cords at historic levels. And Disney, in particular, will face a series of tough questions that can redefine the entire industry, including what will happen to its broadcast platforms like ABC, how will ESPN create a full-service app that doesn't obliterate the audience for its cable channels and who is going to lead that company after Bob Iger fully and finally retires?

The upcoming election will produce a lot of media and require a lot of attention — everything from watching out for misinformation to judging the pop culture impact of [former President] Donald Trump's many trials, analyzing any televised debates between the major nominees for president and dissecting TV/media coverage of the actual election itself.

Ultimately, our audience will face a sea of change in 2024, much of it caused by or reflected in the media they consume. Helping them navigate the changes and fully understand what is happening remains my core goal as a critic and analyst. Along the way, we'll also document a singular time in media, leveraging all the smarts and creativity at NPR to mark a historic moment."


The Public Editor spends a lot of time examining moments where NPR fell short. Yet we also learn a lot about NPR by looking at work that we find to be compelling and excellent journalism. Here we share a line or two about the pieces where NPR shines.

The state we're in

NPR's State of the World podcast brings listeners international coverage each weekday. Previously known as State of Ukraine , this podcast brings contextual and nuanced reporting from NPR journalists around the world. Recent stories include a focus on some of Gaza's historically valuable sites that are now in ruins from the war, how the mango pineapple illustrates the relationship between China and Taiwan, and how local fisherfolk are helping to save the Indus River dolphins in Pakistan. It's a podcast about learning, and exploring the world we live in. — Amaris Castillo

The Office of the Public Editor is a team. Editor Kayla Randall, reporters Amaris Castillo and Emily Barske Wood, and copy editor Merrill Perlman make this newsletter possible. Illustrations are by Carlos Carmonamedina. We are still reading all of your messages on Facebook, Twitter and from our inbox. As always, keep them coming.

Kelly McBride
NPR Public Editor
Craig Newmark Center for Ethics & Leadership at the Poynter Institute

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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