SXSW Moments: Why News Matters

The Forrest Four-Cast: July 1, 2019

Hugh Forrest
6 min readJul 1, 2019

Did you miss something at SXSW 2019? Want to relive the magic? Look to this space over the coming weeks for links to video and audio replays of some of the most incredible experiences from this year’s event.

There were many takeaways from the first presidential nominee debates — but one key truth was clear: We need journalism. With so many issues, positions, and candidates, there’s no way to parse it all on your own. This reality gives the media incredible power to elevate individuals, shape stories, and influence public discourse. At the same time, the economic landscape means news organizations are exploring evolving opportunities for revenue and audiences while making consequential choices about what and who to cover and how to tell their stories. SXSW 2019 featured numerous news leaders talking about the importance of robust media and what’s next for the industry.

Noah Oppenheim and Stephen Battaglio
Over the last two years, NBC News has emerged as a bona fide leader in original reporting, an area traditionally dominated by print, with over 500 investigative scoops on such wide-ranging topics as the USA gymnastics scandal, the Mueller investigation, cyber security, North Korea’s nuclear production and harm caused by medical devices. How are they doing it? They have doubled their commitment and their staff of investigative journalists. Noah Oppenheim, President of NBC News, discusses the importance of original journalism with Stephen Battaglio, television and media writer for the Los Angeles Times, joined by NBC News investigative journalists Carol Lee and Ken Dilanian.

Listen at the above link. Watch the video here.

Jim Bankoff with Soledad O’Brien

Jim Bankoff and Soledad O’Brien
In his 10th year as Vox Media’s visionary, Chairman & CEO Jim Bankoff sits down with Soledad O’Brien, the award-winning journalist and the founder of Starfish Media Group, for a conversation on what’s next for the media and entertainment industries they have helped to shape.

Listen at the above link. Watch the video here.

What’s Next For News
As the industry continues to change rapidly, media companies are experimenting with new distribution and business models, including producing premium programming, developing unique and far-reaching content sharing strategies, and establishing membership programs, subscription models, and paywalls. As the “Pivot to Video” and over-reliance on platforms is left behind, what’s next for digital media and monetization? Leaders at BuzzFeed News, The New York Times, and CNN discuss how they’re managing to thrive in this crowded media environment in this session moderated by Axios media reporter Sara Fischer.

Get Out of the Newsroom and Listen on the Streets
Understanding the different needs of communities is an essential and core role of any modern newsroom. Whether you’re working in local or international news, communities form around topics and issues they care about, but newsrooms are built for the masses. So how do we listen more and translate that into engaging digital content? In this session, cutting edge practitioners share their experiences of working closely with audience to create content that reflects their lives and concerns.

How to Cover Neo-Nazis Safely (and Keep Your Job)
Writing about political extremists was always a tough job. Now that extremists use electronic media to target reporters, their families, and their jobs, it’s even tougher. In this session, HuffPost’s Luke O’Brien, who has covered political extremists for years, and HuffPost’s editor-in-chief, Lydia Polgreen, explain the tactics of disinformation campaigns that target the media — and give you tips to ensure you don’t fall victim.

The Weekly: The New York Times Expands to TV
The New York Times’s new TV show, The Weekly, began airing on FX and Hulu in June. The show brings in-depth reporting that will change how you see a story, whether you knew a lot about it before, or never knew it mattered. Learn more about this new series from Liz Day, story editor for The Weekly, Sam Dolnick, assistant managing editor at The New York Times, Caitlin Dickerson, national immigration reporter at The New York Times, and Sweta Vohra, producer for The Weekly, in conversation with Brian Stelter, the chief media correspondent for CNN Worldwide and anchor of “Reliable Sources.”

How the News Covers the News in 2019
CNN’s Brian Stelter talks to Recode’s Peter Kafka about covering the news media — and being covered by the news media — at a time when journalism and journalists are under more pressure, and scrutiny than ever.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
CNN Anchor & Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper sat down with The Daily Show host Trevor Noah and correspondents Ronny Chieng, Michael Kosta, Desi Lydic, Dulcé Sloan, Roy Wood Jr. and Jaboukie Young-White. They discuss how today’s fast-paced media cycle has changed (and keeps changing!) the late-night comedy landscape. The Daily Show team offers an inside look at how they tackle politics, race and social issues. And they dive into how both their digital team and Emmy Award-winning series “Between the Scenes” lend a fresh perspective to the larger conversation that happens with their audience.

What’s Next For Audio?
Podcasting is booming. More investor money is flowing through, acquisitions are beginning, and Hollywood has found its new development playground. But podcasting is still a niche content medium. With 26% of the US population regularly listening to podcasts, what about the other 74%? This conversation focuses on the growth opportunities that exist within podcasting and audio, and the key factors and additional opportunities that will drive its growth in the future.

Media Skills for 2019: Facts, Physics and Humanism
Veteran energy journalist Robert Bryce covers how reporting grounded in basic math and simple physics can help you cover energy-related issues. But in an age where there’s so much simplistic reporting and fake news abounds, he will also discuss how those skills can be used by all kinds of journalists. In addition, Bryce and Austin-based director Tyson Culver discuss their new documentary, “Juice: How Electricity Explains the World,” and explain how they sought to humanize their reporting on energy while exposing the vast disparity between the electricity rich and the electricity poor. This presentation offers a lively discussion about the power of fact- and people-focused investigative journalism.

The Human Cost of Journalism
Free societies depend on truth and transparency, but in the era of #fakenews, journalism is under siege. Public trust in the media is at an all-time low, while more journalists are being murdered for doing their job than ever before. This discussion, which included Jamal Khashoggi’s editor at the Washington Post, a former war correspondent and VP of communications at News Corp, and the advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, explores the importance of ground truth — the lengths that people go to get it, and the lengths that governments go to stop it. They examine the current dangers, and explore potential solutions for protecting the freedom of information, and reporters’ lives.

More Memories from SXSW 2019
Better Storytelling
Innovative Design
Addressing MeToo
AI for Business
Public Interest AI
Change is Coming
Urban Mobility
It’s Time for Sports!
Saving the Ocean
Military Matters
Women’s Health
Social Media Power
Telling New Media Stories
Marvel’s Magic
Future Health
May the Fourth
Women in Tech
Growing Unicorns
Thriving at Work
Making a Difference
Fighting Fake News
Disaster Response
Hacking Democracy
Pete Buttigieg
Kara Swisher
Arlan Hamilton

Do these audio recordings inspire you to get involved in a SXSW session next year? Enter your forward-thinking speaking proposal for March 2020 via the SXSW PanelPicker. Speaking proposals for next year’s event are accepted via this interface from July 1 through July 19.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.



Hugh Forrest

Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.