Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

“Turns out you don’t have to live on a coast to be treated with suspicion reserved for ‘elites.'”

The malaise that transformed American politics into a hall of mirrors during the leadup to the 2016 presidential election will increasingly afflict local communities.

Why? The social platforms that became vectors for misinformation and its evil twin, disinformation, are widely used not just for national news, but also for community information. Those platforms are not in retreat but rather are ascendant as a news source among certain populations, including older adults, and are unlikely to be constrained by a regulatory framework anytime soon.

What’s more, the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, which will bring partisan politics to the district level amidst a hobbled local news industry, leave American communities ripe for exploitation by bad actors capitalizing on our worst impulses.

Indeed, viral whisper campaigns have already been disturbing the American pastoral. Consider the case of Twin Falls, Idaho, where community members latched onto a rumor — spread on Facebook groups and fueled by a Breitbart News reporter — that a group of foreign Muslim youths had raped a minor. (Fidelity to the facts in the case led to threats of physical harm against local journalists and city officials.)

This phenomenon is perhaps even more likely to occur in ecosystems with weakened journalistic institutions. Local newspapers are gutted, consolidated or disappeared. Broadcasters are on stronger business footing than their print counterparts, but now more likely to be owned by one of a few large companies, some with political baggage. Even local and regional nonprofit media — sometimes the only publishers to add to the ranks at a city hall meeting or at the statehouse — can be backed by funders tied to ideological interests. Local media may be slightly more trusted than national outlets, but not by much. It’s no surprise that “fake news” accusations are being lobbed not just at CNN, but at local journalists, too. Turns out you don’t have to live on a coast to be treated with suspicion reserved for “elites.”

To be sure, there’s been enough recent action tackling all these issues to merit a 50-page report to summarize it all. Some of these efforts rightly focus at the local level. In light of the upcoming election cycle, it’s tempting to offer a modest proposal: that local news outlets join the candidates and do some retail politics. If renewed efforts to increase journalistic transparency have the potential to help stem the tide of misinformation through trust, so can face-to-face interaction. After all, just a quarter of Americans have spoken with a local journalist. A modest proposal? Perhaps. But tell that to the editor who fears a retaliatory bullet hole through his window.

Jesse Holcomb is an assistant professor of journalism at Calvin College.

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Burt Herman   Things get real

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Jake Levine   The return to now

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Susie Banikarim   R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Paul Ford   Go global

Julia B. Chan   Looking for loyalty in all the right places

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Marcela Donini and Thiago Herdy   Collaboration is the way forward for Brazilian journalism

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Dan Shanoff   You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Alan Soon   The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Millie Tran and Stine Bauer Dahlberg   (Hint: It’s about your brand)

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Jim Moroney   Newspapers have to be good enough for readers to pay for

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Tanzina Vega   It’s time for media companies to #PassTheMic

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Helen Havlak   Keywords, not publishers, power the world’s biggest feeds

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The Snapchat scenario and the risk of more closed platforms

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Errin Haines Whack   At the ballot, it’s time to count black women

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Eric Ulken   The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Aron Pilhofer   We can’t leave the business to the business side any more

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Jesse Holcomb   Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Sara M. Watson   Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense