Journalism enters rehab

“All of the misinformation disseminated by elected leaders and alt-right news organizations will need to be purged from our consciousness.”

The events of this year — the coronavirus pandemic, national protests against police brutality, the presidential election — tested the resolve of every journalist that I know. Everyone worked overtime to deliver the latest developments about COVID-19 as scientists gleaned new information about its virology and how it’s contracted.

Unfortunately, some elected officials complicated matters, politicizing the response to a deadly virus. In turn, they confused and disoriented their constituencies when, for example, a mayor, governor, and president are all on different wavelengths.

Some politicians, instead of ameliorating the financial and human costs of the pandemic, cast doubt on journalism that reported on the missteps. The political in-fighting this year cost 300,000 lives and caused millions to suffer. News organizations across the country and the world grappled with how to tell the story while maintaining their audience’s confidence in the quality of the news that elected leaders were actively undercutting.

From this, journalism needs to recover. In 2021, journalism will be in rehab. The statement “Black Lives Matter” shouldn’t have been divisive this year, but it was at the epicenter of controversy. After George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were killed by police officers, protests erupted across the nation and around the world. America’s difficult relationship with media aired on every network news channel. Pundits in New York covered the rioters who tried to break down the doors of their Atlanta headquarters. Journalists were arrested and accosted, and they risked their lives to cover the most diverse protests in the history of the country.

Meanwhile, some elected officials denigrated the peaceful protesters, which undermined the work of reporters write without prejudice. From this, journalism needs to recover.

The protests were a wake-up call for news coverage and newsrooms. Editors and managers had to come to terms with implicit biases within their publications. Before May, they could get away with speaking empty platitudes about diversity — but now employees demand more, and they won’t let up in 2021.

Journalism, and all those who create it, will be working hard to earn back the faith and trust of their audience and their staff. All of the misinformation disseminated by elected leaders and alt-right news organizations will need to be purged from our consciousness. Journalists will ask tougher questions of their elected officials while also holding their managers accountable for a fairer and more equitable workplace.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be inaugurated in a matter of weeks, but Trumpism will persist in some form. Journalism will have to find other issues to cover aside from the coronavirus pandemic and health care. I imagine that climate change, criminal justice reform, and anti-racist movements will finally get the airtime and word counts they deserve because we’ll have a more tolerant head of state, and, hopefully, more tolerant news. Journalism will recover in 2021 and reestablish itself as the Fourth Estate.

Natalie Meade is a fact-checker and contributor at The New Yorker, where she leads the magazine’s union.

The events of this year — the coronavirus pandemic, national protests against police brutality, the presidential election — tested the resolve of every journalist that I know. Everyone worked overtime to deliver the latest developments about COVID-19 as scientists gleaned new information about its virology and how it’s contracted.

Unfortunately, some elected officials complicated matters, politicizing the response to a deadly virus. In turn, they confused and disoriented their constituencies when, for example, a mayor, governor, and president are all on different wavelengths.

Some politicians, instead of ameliorating the financial and human costs of the pandemic, cast doubt on journalism that reported on the missteps. The political in-fighting this year cost 300,000 lives and caused millions to suffer. News organizations across the country and the world grappled with how to tell the story while maintaining their audience’s confidence in the quality of the news that elected leaders were actively undercutting.

From this, journalism needs to recover. In 2021, journalism will be in rehab. The statement “Black Lives Matter” shouldn’t have been divisive this year, but it was at the epicenter of controversy. After George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were killed by police officers, protests erupted across the nation and around the world. America’s difficult relationship with media aired on every network news channel. Pundits in New York covered the rioters who tried to break down the doors of their Atlanta headquarters. Journalists were arrested and accosted, and they risked their lives to cover the most diverse protests in the history of the country.

Meanwhile, some elected officials denigrated the peaceful protesters, which undermined the work of reporters write without prejudice. From this, journalism needs to recover.

The protests were a wake-up call for news coverage and newsrooms. Editors and managers had to come to terms with implicit biases within their publications. Before May, they could get away with speaking empty platitudes about diversity — but now employees demand more, and they won’t let up in 2021.

Journalism, and all those who create it, will be working hard to earn back the faith and trust of their audience and their staff. All of the misinformation disseminated by elected leaders and alt-right news organizations will need to be purged from our consciousness. Journalists will ask tougher questions of their elected officials while also holding their managers accountable for a fairer and more equitable workplace.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be inaugurated in a matter of weeks, but Trumpism will persist in some form. Journalism will have to find other issues to cover aside from the coronavirus pandemic and health care. I imagine that climate change, criminal justice reform, and anti-racist movements will finally get the airtime and word counts they deserve because we’ll have a more tolerant head of state, and, hopefully, more tolerant news. Journalism will recover in 2021 and reestablish itself as the Fourth Estate.

Natalie Meade is a fact-checker and contributor at The New Yorker, where she leads the magazine’s union.

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