20200
P
1
20100
R  E
2
2070
D   I   C
3
2050
T   I   O   N
4
2040
S   F   O   R   J
5
2030
O  U  R  N  A  L
6
2020
I  S  M  2  0  2  0
7

The free press stands against authoritarians’ attacks on truth

“Disunity is what authoritarians and wannabe authoritarians depend on to divide and conquer. When the public is busy throwing stones at one another, there’s less time to stop and take a careful look at the powerful men in glass houses.”

As established democracies like India, Brazil, Hungary, the Philippines, and the United States fall deeper into authoritarian politics, pressure will only increase on news organizations who seek to safeguard democracy by providing truth to the public.

Outlets like Rappler under Rodrigo Duterte, Intercept Brasil under Jair Bolsonaro, and Szabad Pecs under Viktor Orbán must navigate a gauntlet of threats and attacks as autocratic leaders seek to control the narrative and suppress facts about what their administrations are doing.

We at The GroundTruth Project reported on a “playbook” that democratically elected but autocratically minded politicians all seem to be using. There are striking similarities in the tactics these leaders are using as they target the media, create scapegoats both foreign and domestic, rewrite history and ultimately, seek to erode the very concept of truth: a common set of facts that make constructive dialogue and debate possible.

The epithet “fake news” has spread like a virus, weaponized by strongmen around the world against all who would dare tell it like it is. Meanwhile, actually disingenuous information sweeps the globe, hardly held in check by amateur and professional fact-checkers despite their valiant efforts.

A 2015 study found that even people who are knowledgeable about a subject are susceptible to false information that is frequently repeated. The researchers called this the “illusory truth effect.” And attacking the messenger seems to work too, sowing doubt in the minds of the public.

As veteran 60 Minutes journalist Lesley Stahl revealed, she sat with President Trump soon after his 2016 election victory and asked him why he attacks the press. She said Trump replied, “You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so that when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.”

In the United States, the crisis in local news only compounds the challenge. As Margaret Sullivan argued in The Washington Post last month, the “death knell for local newspapers” is “perilously close.”

“One of the worst parts about what has happened is that local news sources are relatively well-trusted,” she wrote. “In an era of deep antipathy toward the media, that’s no small thing. They still are one of the ways that many communities maintain a sense of unity and shared facts.”

But disunity is what authoritarians and wannabe authoritarians depend on to divide and conquer. When the public is busy throwing stones at one another, there’s less time to stop and take a careful look at the powerful men in glass houses.

And when the free press is diminished, there are fewer journalists walk the halls of those houses and report back to the people. When the public distrusts the press, few believe the reporting anyway. When the press is captured by the state, as we see in countries like Russia, Turkey, India, Hungary, people may believe what is presented but it is propaganda concocted by corrupt leaders.

A free and independent press remains one of the world’s best defenses against tyranny. And in 2020, we’re gonna need it.

Kevin Douglas Grant is the co-founder and executive editor of The GroundTruth Project and vice president of Report for America.

As established democracies like India, Brazil, Hungary, the Philippines, and the United States fall deeper into authoritarian politics, pressure will only increase on news organizations who seek to safeguard democracy by providing truth to the public.

Outlets like Rappler under Rodrigo Duterte, Intercept Brasil under Jair Bolsonaro, and Szabad Pecs under Viktor Orbán must navigate a gauntlet of threats and attacks as autocratic leaders seek to control the narrative and suppress facts about what their administrations are doing.

We at The GroundTruth Project reported on a “playbook” that democratically elected but autocratically minded politicians all seem to be using. There are striking similarities in the tactics these leaders are using as they target the media, create scapegoats both foreign and domestic, rewrite history and ultimately, seek to erode the very concept of truth: a common set of facts that make constructive dialogue and debate possible.

The epithet “fake news” has spread like a virus, weaponized by strongmen around the world against all who would dare tell it like it is. Meanwhile, actually disingenuous information sweeps the globe, hardly held in check by amateur and professional fact-checkers despite their valiant efforts.

A 2015 study found that even people who are knowledgeable about a subject are susceptible to false information that is frequently repeated. The researchers called this the “illusory truth effect.” And attacking the messenger seems to work too, sowing doubt in the minds of the public.

As veteran 60 Minutes journalist Lesley Stahl revealed, she sat with President Trump soon after his 2016 election victory and asked him why he attacks the press. She said Trump replied, “You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so that when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.”

In the United States, the crisis in local news only compounds the challenge. As Margaret Sullivan argued in The Washington Post last month, the “death knell for local newspapers” is “perilously close.”

“One of the worst parts about what has happened is that local news sources are relatively well-trusted,” she wrote. “In an era of deep antipathy toward the media, that’s no small thing. They still are one of the ways that many communities maintain a sense of unity and shared facts.”

But disunity is what authoritarians and wannabe authoritarians depend on to divide and conquer. When the public is busy throwing stones at one another, there’s less time to stop and take a careful look at the powerful men in glass houses.

And when the free press is diminished, there are fewer journalists walk the halls of those houses and report back to the people. When the public distrusts the press, few believe the reporting anyway. When the press is captured by the state, as we see in countries like Russia, Turkey, India, Hungary, people may believe what is presented but it is propaganda concocted by corrupt leaders.

A free and independent press remains one of the world’s best defenses against tyranny. And in 2020, we’re gonna need it.

Kevin Douglas Grant is the co-founder and executive editor of The GroundTruth Project and vice president of Report for America.

Mike Caulfield   Native verification tools for the blue checkmark crowd

Nicholas Jackson   What’s left of local gets comfortable with reader support

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

John Garrett   It’s the best time in a century to start a local news organization

Irving Washington   Leadership isn’t something you learn on the job

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

L. Gordon Crovitz   Fighting misinformation requires journalism, not secret algorithms

Doris Truong   The year of radical salary transparency

Bill Adair   A Nobel Prize, a Brad Pitt film, and a Taylor Swift song

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The business we want, not the business we had

Mario García   Think small (screen)

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

Millie Tran   Wicked

Ståle Grut   OSINT journalism goes mainstream

Cindy Royal   Prepare media students for skills, not job titles

Kourtney Bitterly   Transparency isn’t just a desire, it’s an expectation

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

Felix Salmon   Spotify launches a news channel

Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

Talia Stroud   The work of reconnecting starts November 4

Lucas Graves   A smarter conversation about how (and why) fact-checking matters

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   A changing industry amps up podcasters’ ambitions

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

Nikki Usher   All systems down

Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

Matthew Pressman   News consumers divide into haves and have-nots

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

Linda Solomon Wood   Everyone in your organization, moving toward a common goal

Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

Laura E. Davis   Know the context your journalism is operating within

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

Nushin Rashidian   Are platforms a bridge or a lifeline?

Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

Mariana Moura Santos   The future of journalism is collaborative

Nathalie Malinarich   Betting on loyalty

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

Jasmine McNealy   A call for context

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

Joe Amditis   Collaborative journalism takes its rightful place at the table

Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

Kevin D. Grant   The free press stands against authoritarians’ attacks on truth

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

Peter Bale   Lies get further normalized

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

Brenda P. Salinas   Treating MP3 files like text

Joanne McNeil   A return to blogs (finally? sort of?)

Margarita Noriega   The platforms try to figure out what to do with single-subject newsrooms

Simon Galperin   Journalism becomes more democratic

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

S. Mitra Kalita   The race to 2021

Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

Francesco Zaffarano   TikTok without generational prejudice

Dannagal G. Young   Let’s disrupt the logic that’s driving Americans apart

Elizabeth Hansen and Jesse Holcomb   Local news initiatives run into a capital shortage

Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

Joshua Darr   All that campaign cash will make the media’s problems worse

Knight Foundation   Five generations of journalists, learning from each other

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting gets listener relationship management

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting finally creates another mega-hit show

Rick Berke   Incoming fire from both left and right

james Wahutu   Western journalists, learn from your African peers

Meg Marco   Everything happens somewhere

Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Jennifer Brandel   A love letter from the year 2073

Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

Christa Scharfenberg   It’s time to make journalism a field that supports and respects women

Mary Walter-Brown and Tristan Loper   Power to the people (on your audience team)

Richard J. Tofel   A constraint of the reader-revenue model emerges

Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

Rachel Glickhouse   Journalists get left behind in the industry’s decline

Tanya Cordrey   Saying no to more good ideas

Julia B. Chan   We 👏 take 👏 breaks 👏

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

Imaeyen Ibanga   Let’s take it slow

Rachel Davis Mersey   The business of local TV news will enter its downward slide

Jim Brady   We’ll complain about other people living in bubbles while ignoring our own

Bill Grueskin   Our ethics codes get an overhaul

Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

Errin Haines   Race and gender aren’t a 2020 story — they’re the story

M. Scott Havens   First-party data becomes media’s most important currency

Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Jeremy Gilbert and Jarrod Dicker   A call for collaboration between storytelling and tech

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

Raney Aronson-Rath   News deserts will proliferate — but so will new solutions

Pablo Boczkowski   The day after November 4

Rachel Schallom   The value of push alerts goes beyond open rates

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

Sarah Alvarez   I’m ready for post-news

Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

Ernie Smith   The death of the industry fad

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, collaboration in a time of state attacks

Colleen Shalby   Journalists become media literacy teachers

Elizabeth Dunbar   Frank talk, and then action

Tamar Charney   From broadcast to bespoke

Marie Gilot   This is fine

Hossein Derakhshan   AI can’t conjure up an Errol Morris

Michael W. Wagner   Increasingly fractured, but little bit deliberative

Nico Gendron   Make better products if you want to reach Gen Z

Sonali Prasad   Climate change storytelling gets multidimensional

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

Sarah Stonbely   More people start caring about news inequality

Matt DeRienzo   Local broadcasters begin to fill the gaps left by newspapers

Jonas Kaiser   Russian bots are just today’s slacktivists

Carrie Brown-Smith   Engaged journalism: It’s finally happening

Logan Jaffe   You don’t need fancy tools to listen

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

Josh Schwartz   Publishers move beyond the metered paywall

Madelyn Sanfilippo and Yafit Lev-Aretz   News coverage gets geo-fragmented

Joni Deutsch   Podcasting unsilences the silent

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young   The promise of nonprofit journalism

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

An Xiao Mina   The Forum we wanted, the forum we got

Zizi Papacharissi   A president leads, the press follows, reality fades

Barbara Gray   Join local libraries on the frontlines of civic engagement

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

Jeff Kofman   Speed through technology

A.J. Bauer   A fork in the road for conservative media

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Dan Shanoff   Sports media enters the Bronny era

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

Cory Haik   We’re already consuming the future of news — now we have to produce it