Apocalypse Then and Now
by Julian Brave NoiseCat
To be Indigenous to North America is to be part of a postapocalyptic community and experience. Indigenous journalists have always grappled with earth-shattering stories: either as historical background to current events or in the deep despair of the still-unfolding legacy of Indigenous dispossession, displacement, and death that brought nations like the United States and Canada into being. This perspective tests the limits of journalism, asking reporters to cover marginalized subjects unfamiliar to most readers with an eye on the people, histories, and systems buried and erased by colonization—all without losing the thread of the narrative.
Kyle Whyte, a Citizen Potawatomi philosopher and professor of environment and sustainability at the University of Michigan, described the challenge facing Indigenous journalists succinctly: “In the space of a short piece that’s widely accessible, how do you write in a way that includes a structural analysis and a sense of history that many readers don’t initially understand?”
For insight, I called Candis Callison, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Journalism and a member of the Tahltan people. She described her preferred approach as “systems journalism”—a methodology that treats news items not as isolated events but as “windows into what’s happening in underlying systems and structures.” The narratives we tell about our past and present delineate possible avenues for future action, Callison said. She urges journalists to consider how white and colonial perspectives frame our current society as normative and permanent, erasing the history of genocidal colonialism that brought us here. Systems journalism often brushes up against established methods, however. “The forms and styles that are dominant in journalism practice,” Callison told me, “don’t always allow us to get at the historical context that is vital.”
Our stories, field notes, and communities ask a great deal of us as journalists—and, particularly, as Indigenous journalists and journalists of color—especially in moments of grave consequence, like the present. It’s hard, and in some cases impossible, to give yourself, your audience, your community, your sources—and perhaps also your land, your water, your relations—everything they want and deserve in your work. Indigenous experiences and perspectives challenge the notion that a press corps equipped with notepads and recorders can capture the whole truth. More often than not, I’m convinced that reality defies the disciplined space of stories, waging an epistemic resistance against the tyranny of language, text, and form—something we Indians can relate to.
Professors, consider volunteering in a local newsroom during the winter break
Student media is a lifesaver, and The New York Times wants you to send them your best coronavirus work
I’m wondering if any of you might want to consider volunteering over the long holiday break for a stint at your local TV or newspaper? I know that getting back into the newsroom game helps me stay current with trends (and know that yes, even in the few months that I’ve been away, things have changed!).
If any of you do this or have done this, I’d love to hear about it, especially if there are takeaways for other professors. firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime, it’s November! You are so close to the end of the semester, and with a new presidency decided and positive vaccine news last week, it feels like an end to the unknowns is coming — and not a moment too soon.
“Hey, local TV news execs, read this: By a healthy margin, viewers — especially younger viewers — prefer solutions-focused stories to problem-focused pieces.”
Journalist/educator. Dean, Klein College of Media and Communication
Become a voice for freedom.
Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi جمال أحمد خاشقجي,
Jamal was a Saudi Arabian dissident, author, and columnist for The Washington Post and a general manager and editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel who was assassinate at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Octocter 2, 2018 by agents of the Saudi government. Jamal also served as editor for the Saudi Arabian newspaper ‘Wal Watan, turning it into a platform for Saudi progressives. [wikipedia]
For journalists and consumers of news and information.
Principles of Journalism
In 1997, an organization then administered by PEJ, the Committee of Concerned Journalists, began a national conversation among citizens and news people to identify and clarify the principles that underlie journalism. After four years of research, including 20 public forums around the country, a reading of journalism history, a national survey of journalists, and more, the group released a Statement of Shared Purpose that identified nine principles. These became the basis for The Elements of Journalism, the book by PEJ Director Tom Rosenstiel and CCJ Chairman and PEJ Senior Counselor Bill Kovach. Here are those principles, as outlined in the original Statement of Shared Purpose.
A STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
After extended examination by journalists themselves of the character of journalism at the end of the twentieth century, we offer this common understanding of what defines our work. The central purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with accurate and reliable information they need to function in a free society.
This encompasses myriad roles helping define community, creating common language and common knowledge, identifying a community’s goals, heroes and villains, and pushing people beyond complacency. This purpose also involves other requirements, such as
- being entertaining,
- serving as watchdog,
- offering voice to the voiceless.
Over time, journalists have developed nine core principles to meet the task. They comprise what might be described as the theory of journalism.
1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth
Democracy depends on citizens having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context. Journalism does not pursue truth in an absolute or philosophical sense, but it can and must pursue it in a practical sense. This “journalistic truth” is a process that begins with the professional discipline of assembling and verifying facts. Then journalists try to convey a fair and reliable account of their meaning, valid for now, subject to further investigation. Journalists should be as transparentas possible about sources and methods, so audiences can make their own assessment of the information. Even in a world of expanding voices, accuracy is the foundation upon which everything else is built: context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis and debate. The truth, over time, emerges from this forum. As citizens encounter an ever-greater flow of data, they have more need not less for identifiable sources dedicated to verifying that information and putting it in context.
2. Its first loyalty is to citizens
While news organizations answer to many constituencies, including advertisers and shareholders, the journalists in those organizations must maintain allegiance to citizens and the larger public interest above any other if they are to provide the news without fear or favor. This commitment to citizens first is the basis of a news organization’s credibility; the implied covenant that tells the audience the coverage is not slanted for friends or advertisers. Commitment to citizens also means journalism should present a representative picture of all constituent groups in society. Ignoring certain citizens has the effect of disenfranchising them. The theory underlying the modern news industry has been the belief that credibility builds a broad and loyal audience, and that economic success follows in turn. In that regard, the business people in a news organization also must nurture–not exploit their allegiance to the audience ahead of other considerations.
3. Its essence is a discipline of verification
[BEWARE: CORPORATE OWNED MEDIA]
Journalists rely on a professional discipline for verifying information. When the concept of objectivity originally evolved, it did not imply that journalists are free of bias. It called, rather, for a consistent method of testing information – a transparent approach to evidence – precisely so that personal and cultural biases would not undermine the accuracy of their work. The method is objective; not the journalist. Seeking out multiple witnesses, disclosing as much as possible about sources, or asking various sides for comment, all signal such standards. This discipline of verification is what separates journalism from other modes of communication, such as propaganda, fiction or entertainment. However, the need for professional method is not always fully recognized or refined. While journalism has developed various techniques for determining facts, for instance, it has done less to develop a system for testing the reliability of journalistic interpretation.
4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover
Independence is an underlying requirement of journalism, a cornerstone of its reliability. Independence of spirit and mind,rather than neutrality, is the principle journalists must keep in focus. While editorialists and commentators are not neutral, the source of their credibility is still their accuracy, intellectual fairness and ability to inform, not their devotion to a certain group or outcome. In our independence, however, we must avoid any tendency to stray into arrogance, elitism, isolation or nihilism.
5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power
Journalism has an unusual capacity to serve as watchdog over those whose power and position most affect citizens. The Founders recognized this to be a rampart against despotism when they ensured an independent press; courts have affirmed it; citizens rely on it. As journalists, we have an obligation to protect this watchdog freedom by not demeaning it in frivolous use or exploiting it for commercial gain.
I recently wrote that the United States is not a democracy, but an autocracy in the making.
That calls for a fundamentally different kind of journalism. And who better to show us what this looks like than Jay Rosen, one of the sharpest critics of modern news.
In the run-up to the US elections in November, Jay answers an essential question: How should the media report on a democracy in crisis?
“There are things that journalists can – and should – be legitimately for: a citizens agenda; fighting authoritarianism and the subversion of democracy; an evidence-based political debate; and pro-participation.”
Agree with Jay Rosen’s take on the ‘Peter Baker’ form of journalism: “I don’t trust this attitude. I think it is dismissive of some of the hardest problems in journalism. […] These are fantasies of detachment.” (para. 14 *) -dayle
JOURNALISTS: YOU NEED AN AGENDA, FOR ALL OF US
‘I am not sure how long I’m going to be doing this.
By “this” I mean critiquing the US press as it reports on national politics, and trying to get journalists to adopt better practices when they are public actors who present to us as observers. It is a frustrating assignment, and I am wary of burnout.
But since I am self-assigned – self-appointed, really – I have freedom of movement, intellectually speaking. Were it not for the fact that we are all enmeshed in the biggest national emergency since the Great Depression, I would probably have exited by now from the “press coverage of politics” beat, in the belief that I have contributed what I can, worn out my welcome, and exhausted the patience of anyone who has been following along.
But I cannot quit before the 2020 elections are run. Until then I am going to press my case as hard as I can. Today, my case to journalists covering the US election, whether they’re US American or not, is this: you cannot keep from getting swept up in Donald Trump’s agenda without a firm grasp on your own.
I am quite aware that journalists are taught not to let their political preferences, party membership, or personal ideology shape their reporting, and I have no quarrel with that restriction. But it does not end the discussion.
in May of 2016, after Trump claimed – without evidence – that the father of former presidential candidate Ted Cruz had met with Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who shot president John F Kennedy in 1963. (Italics mine.)
“There is no corroborated evidence that Ted Cruz’s father ever met Lee Harvey Oswald, or, for that matter, any other presidential assassin. We in the media don’t talk about it because there’s no evidence of it. In fact, there is contrary evidence. Well before the picture was taken, Rafael Cruz’s sister was brutally beaten by Castro forces and Rafael Cruz had denounced the regime. So, any suggestion that Cruz’s father played a role in the Kennedy assassination is ridiculous and, frankly, shameful. Now, that’s not an anti-Trump position or a pro-Cruz position. It’s a pro-truth position.”
There are fundamental values journalists have to stand up for
Jake Tapper knows that journalists are not supposed to push an agenda like “Ted Cruz for president!” But he also knows there are fundamental values that he and his colleagues in the news business have to stand up for. Among these are a decent respect for truth-telling in public settings. When politicians competing for votes float poisonous charges without even a modicum of evidence, self-respecting journalists have to push back in some way.
In doing that, Tapper wasn’t crossing the border from journalism into some other line of work. He was practising his craft the way he understands it – and legitimately so. The distinction he makes is important. Yes, he took a position on air, but it’s not anti-Trump or pro-Cruz. It’s pro-truth.
Now I want to go beyond what Jake Tapper said in 2016, and introduce a distinction of my own, between the political and the politicised. About press coverage of politics, nothing would improve our conversation more than a careful separation of these two terms. Not easy, but worth trying. Here is what I mean.
When TV journalists with news shows push back against major party candidates who are floating poisonous charges without evidence, that is a political act. We should be clear-eyed in acknowledging such. Same goes for the newspaper fact checkers“Trump is once again making a ridiculous claim.” With these moves journalists are trying to alert viewers and voters to be wary of Trump’s false charges. They would not put it this way, but I will: their implicit “agenda” is to prevent lying from being raised to a universal principle in politics.
When politicians competing for votes float poisonous charges without even a modicum of evidence, self-respecting journalists have to push back in some way
That is a valid goal. When I call it a political act, I mean several things: it is undertaken for the good of the nation. It is a use of power in one sense, a check on power in another. It is constitutionally protected. And it is contestable. People can and do disagree about the propriety of journalists declaring what is true and what is false, what is in or out of bounds during an election, andAll these make it (properly) political.
But – and here comes my distinction – if journalists lose their place and operate as cheerleaders for individual candidates (“Ted Cruz for president!”) or they let their ideology distort their reporting so as not to injure a cause they manifestly believe in, then their work has been unduly politicised. This is not good. It erodes trust, validates bad faith attacks on the press, and ultimately renders journalism useless as a check on power because it is trying to be the power.
Where does the properly political part of journalism end?
*So we should be leery of an overly politicised press. We should also watch out for politicised attacks on the press. And we should be wary of journalists who don’t think their work is political at all.White House correspondent of The New York Times:
“As reporters, our job is to observe, not participate, and so to that end, I don’t belong to any political party, I don’t belong to any non-journalism organisation, I don’t support any candidate, I don’t give money to interest groups and I don’t vote.
I try hard not to take strong positions on public issues even in private, much to the frustration of friends and family. For me, it’s easier to stay out of the fray if I never make up my mind, even in the privacy of the kitchen or the voting booth, that one candidate is better than another, that one side is right and the other wrong.”
When the president is using you as a hate object in order to discredit the entire mainstream press, what good is ‘our job is to observe, not participate’?
I don’t trust this attitude. I think it is dismissive of some of the hardest problems in journalism. Correct in warning against an overly politicised press, it has nothing to say about the inescapably political nature of Baker’s day-to-day work. Not voting on principle, never making up your mind on tough issues, deliberately frustrating friends and family when they ask around your kitchen island: what do you think? These are fantasies of detachment.
When the president is using you as a hate object in order to discredit the entire mainstream press in the eyes of his supporters so that your reporting and the reporting of all the people you compete with arrives pre-rejected, what good is “our job is to observe, not participate”? You are part of that system whether you like it or not. You either think your way out of it, or get incorporated into it.
The hard work is deciding where the properly political part of journalism ends, and its undue, unfair, unwise and risky politicisation begins. But we don’t have a discussion like that. Instead, we have media bias wielded like a baseball bat, and journalists who think they can serve the electorate better if they remove themselves from it.
How should journalists approach the 2020 election?
Now we are met on an ugly and brutal battlefield: the 2020 campaign for president. How should journalists approach it? You can’t keep from getting swept up in Trump’s agenda without a firm grasp on your own. But what should that agenda be? To this tricky question I now turn, armed with my distinction between the properly political and the overly politicised.
I am going to list a few things I think journalists can legitimately be “for” as they report on the coming election. If they choose not to choose, and head into the 2020 campaign without stars to steer by, they are likely to become lost in They know what’s coming. What they don’t know is how to avoid playing along.
Here are some suggestions.
1. A citizens agenda
This and a group that is It’s an alternative to the horse race model for election coverage. There, the organising principle is: “Who’s likely to win?” In the citizens agenda style, you start by asking the people you are trying to inform: what do you want the candidates to be talking about as they compete for votes? If you keep asking that question, and listen carefully to the answers, you can synthesise from them a kind of
This list then becomes your “agenda” for covering the campaign. Get the candidates to address what the voters said they most want to hear about. Focus your journalism around key items on the citizens agenda. When one of Trump’s media storms blows in you can hold fast to your own priorities by asking if his latest controversy advances discussion of the citizens agenda. If not, you have good reason for downplaying it.
Because it pressures the candidates to address these issues rather than those, the citizens agenda is a political project. But it can be done without unduly politicising election coverage if the act of listening to voters is a genuine one. The agenda comes from them, not from the newsroom’s political preferences.
I wrote about it in What Are Journalists For? The basic model has been around since the early 1990s. If journalists in the national press wanted to move toward this alternative they would have done so by now. My read is that it feels too earnest to them, too much like civics class, or “eat your vegetables” journalism, not enough like having drinks with political insiders. I still think it’s the best way to keep from getting swept up in Trump’s agenda. But they do not. So we need other ideas.
2. Fighting authoritarianism and the subversion of democracy
Suppose you began with a frank recognition among editors, producers and reporters that democracy is at risk in the United States. This would argue for extra emphasis on the integrity of elections, extra vigilance against those who would try to subvert them, and a special watchfulness for – a duty to warn about – authoritarian movements in the body politic: demonisation of minorities, trashing of democratic procedures, evasion of checks and balances, erosion of accountability, threats of violence, and other forms of above-the-law behaviour. (For what I mean by watchfulness, “When Trump takes a step toward autocracy, journalists need to call it out”. For a “fighting voter suppression” agenda
The extra watchfulness I speak of is a small-d democratic act. It has to be applied across the board: left, right, centre, fringe. With that condition,
it is entirely within journalists’ rights to make fighting authoritarianism the mission and heart of their campaign coverage. Call it threats-to-democracy journalism. If we were ever going to need an agenda like that, this is the year.
3. A more evidence-based political debate
Journalists could also decide to stand more forcefully and consistently for an evidence-based politics. If they did, this too would be a political act. But again, it does not have to be politicised. Asking “is this evidence-based?” could be a way of deciding whether a campaign controversy is worth discussing – or dismissing. Holding all candidates to the same standards of evidence is the very essence of across-the-board fairness. Rating the campaigns on how evidence-based they are willing to be might prove especially useful in a political environment dominated by our struggle with Covid-19.
Imagine asking the best public health and immunology experts you can find, “When it comes to the pandemic, what do you want the candidates to be talking about as they compete for votes?” Filtered through community knowledge and common sense, this might be a good way of organising state and local coverage of candidates who will have to speak about recovering from the virus to get elected. “We are going to be relentlessly evidence-based, because that is what our community most needs to get out of this mess … ” is a solid agenda to adopt in an election year likely to be dominated by a public health crisis.
Democracy is not a spectator sport, though some forms of punditry seem to frame it that way. The more people who participate in the system the stronger the system is. Journalists can design their coverage so that it helps people go out and vote. With good information and timely notice, they can make it easier for eligible voters to get registered and exercise their rights. They can expose those who would discourage citizens from voting. They can fight disinformation that tries to depress turnout. They can hold accountable the public officials who run elections. They can warn about problems that could haunt us on election day.
But it’s not just voting. All forms of participation could be part of this agenda: how to volunteer, how to contribute, where to see the candidates.
No way around it: encouraging participation is a political act. But as long as it includes all parties and all voters, election coverage that is shamelessly pro-participation does not unfairly politicise the press. Bad actors will of course make that charge, but bad actors always complain about good journalism.
Don’t like these ideas? Come up with your own!
Some I didn’t get to: fighting cynicism. Making politics fun again. Bringing emotions other than rage to campaign coverage. Transcending traditional party divisions. It would take courage and imagination, but all of these could work as organising principles, possibly in combination with others I have mentioned. (You don’t have to have one and only one agenda!)
My point is that journalists need to know what they’re trying to accomplish with their election coverage.
Covering the campaign the way campaigns in the US are covered – which, as far as I can tell, is the current “agenda” at CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, PBS, NPR – does not provide a sense of mission strong enough to prevent a repeat of the debacle in 2016. Something stronger is required.
They know what’s coming, I said about the campaign press. What they don’t know is how to avoid capture. Donald Trump is going to campaign the same way he “governs”. By flooding the zone with shit, and making so much news that no single revelation matters much. By accusing opponents of the very things he is manifestly guilty of.
By giving his supporters license to reject the news: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” By persuading the uncommitted that it’s useless to pay attention because you will never get the story straight. By leveraging his weirdness as a human being, like the fact that he lacks the gene for feeling shame. By lowering all of us. By manufacturing confusion. By calling himself the victim of journalists who point these things out. By warring against the press.
These methods – but they’re not methodical, just compulsive – exploit errors in the journalist’s code. Among them are:
- What the president says is news.
- Issues are boring. Controversy is good.
- Conflict makes news, attacks are exciting.
- If it could become a factor in the election, it’s worth reporting.
- In theory, sources that flood the zone with shit should be dropped. In practice, we need them.
- More information is better than less.
- Meeting traffic goals means you’re winning at this.
These are propositions set too deep. There is zero chance of removing them in time for 2020. Each one opens the press to manipulation by Trump and his campaign. Which is part of why I say: you can’t keep from getting sucked into his agenda without a firm grasp on your own. Only a strong sense of mission will prevent a repeat of 2016. But I am not optimistic. It is so much easier to go with the flow.’
This article was originally published on Jay Rosen’s blog, PressThink.
“If at any point I had thought there’s something to tell the American people that they don’t know, I would do it.”
-Bob Woodward, ‘journalist’
The position of a journalist is to present the information gathered, a conduit of news and information, not a determinant of what the people have the right to know, or should, should not, learn.
“What do journalists stand for? They uphold the public’s right to know, a spirit of openness and honesty in the conduct of public business, the free flow of information and ideas, along with truthfulness, accuracy, balance, and fair play in the news.” -Jay Rosen, What are Journalist For? (p. 281)
Hopeful thoughts from a climate correspondent.
“The climate emergency is very bad. Over the past few days, disasters have cascaded around the world. But no matter how dire the pandemic-climate-racial uprising emergency gets, there is never, ever a reason to give up.” -Eric Holthaus
On climate doom
Over the past few days, disasters have cascaded around the world. More of California burned in a one-week span than in almost any other full year in recorded history. Hurricanes have battered the Caribbean and the US Gulf Coast. The strongest typhoon in North Korea’s history made landfall. Scientists unveiled doomsday updates from Greenland, Antarctica, and the North Pole.
Watching all this, I felt a familiar sense of despair settle in. When disasters are in the headlines, I often have a counter-intuitive response. My mind automatically races to the countless everyday changes in weather that go largely unnoticed, but in aggregate add up to
I find myself noticing the impulse to give in to
from my friend and former podcast co-host Jacquelyn Gill explains how this instinct is partly a result of privilege in climate spaces. It’s often easier to imagine the apocalypse than the systemic changes necessary in every aspect of society to steer us away from oblivion.
The climate emergency is very bad. It magnifies inequalities. It’s a manifestation of hundreds of years of injustice and erasure.
But if you find yourself thinking “we’re screwed”, here’s a gentle reminder to ask yourself who “we” is. This has been happening for a long time.
This week’s good news on climate
We need to move past the “we’re screwed” narrative on climate change and ecosystem collapse. Fast. A dead world is not our destiny.
Yes, the odds are against us as long as we stay on our current path. But we can and must radically change that path. We can do this, and we will.
We’ve reached the point in the pandemic-climate-racial uprising emergency that there are multiple versions of reality floating around and it’s very difficult to keep track of reality.
and some people just aren’t willing to do it.
I’ve subscribed to the concept of atmospheric harm reduction. Harm reduction is a strategy that’s used to de-escalate violence and self-harm, and involves things like sanitised needle distribution or legalising and regulating marijuana.
The same applies to the climate emergency. Every tonne of carbon avoided through developing tough new habits, every climate denier voted out of office and replaced with an imperfect-but-better candidate, every difficult conversation that helps you articulate your ardent love for the world and everything that’s worth saving – all of those help make the world a measurably better place.
There are days when it will feel like you can’t go on, that all your work is pointless. But in those days remember that a better world is always possible. We can take breaks. We can endure setbacks. But we can never, ever give up. You were born just in time to transform the world.
“(Jean Guerrero) describes the ideological arc of Miller’s life and investigates his ties to right-wing mentors and far-right groups. She adds, many are baffled at how someone so young with so little policy or legal expertise gained so much power.”
I remember, you know, the incredible anti-immigrant hostility that was pervasive in California at the time, which may be surprising to people because California is known as such a deep-blue state and kind of leads the charge against the Trump administration today. But in the ’90s, it was sort of ground zero, like a microcosm for what we’re seeing nationally today. There were unprecedented attacks on immigrants through a proposition called Prop 187, which, you know, targeted social services for children of undocumented migrants. It was later ruled unconstitutional. There was also attacks on bilingual education statewide. There were attacks on affirmative action.
And the Republican governor of California at the time, Pete Wilson, you know, was repeatedly railing against what he called the invasion at the border – the same language that you see Trump using today – and blaming all of the state’s fiscal problems on immigrants, you know, running these ads on television that I remember watching about how – you know, showing families coming across the border, and there’s this ominous narrator over the video saying, they keep coming.
And from my reporting, it became clear to me that Stephen Miller is truly a product of this environment. He was internalizing a lot of these white supremacist and racist narratives that were common in the state and acting them out, you know, in his high school.
-NPR’s Fresh Air
Important and necessary read–solid investigative reporting from former KPBS San Diego reporter and Emmy award winner Jean Guerrero.
“A vital book for understanding the still-unfolding nightmare of nationalism and racism in the 21st century.” –Francisco Cantu, author of The Line Becomes a River
‘Hatemonger’ Paints Trump Advisor Stephen Miller As A ‘Case Study In Radicalization’
Guerrero told The Times that Miller, unlike Bannon and others surrounding the president, is not an opportunist or self-promoter but “a true ideologue, a true fanatic.” Much has been made of the question of what motivates Miller, 35, whose prior experience consisted mostly of PR work for C-list lawmakers before leveraging a single-minded obsession with immigration into the office of then-Sen. Jeff Sessions — and then into speechwriting for Trump’s nascent 2016 presidential campaign.
Guerrero’s book is an exhaustive investigation into not just the how, but the why. She continues to brave threats of violence after conducting more than 100 interviews and researching the darkest corners of the American consciousness to unpack a strange (but not rare) phenomenon: the radicalization of a privileged young white man — though this one, the descendant of Jewish refugees, grew up in an increasingly diverse Southern California.
Guerrero spoke with The Times over the phone from her home in San Diego, a conversation edited for clarity and length. By her account, Miller was primed and groomed — starved for attention, yearning for belonging, and fighting what was, then, a lonely war.’
I honestly believe that the most important reason Miller has been able to stay so long and have such an outsize impact is that he is a true ideologue, a true fanatic. More than anyone else in the White House, he believes that he is actually saving the world through what he is doing. Strategically that has worked out for him — and Trump has found whenever he takes a more moderate line on immigration or anything, he ends up getting ridiculed as weak, which Trump hates.
…nowhere in the book do I call Miller racist or xenophobic, or anything like that. We don’t know what is in a person’s heart with absolute certainty. I grappled with that. Neutrality is necessary for journalistic integrity, an integral pillar of our democracy, and we absolutely need that, but also this reluctance we’ve had as journalists to use these words has created space for white supremacists to operate with impunity.
What I tried to do in the book is show what Miller is doing and saying, and the white supremacist sources, so that people can draw their own conclusions. I did not write this book to tell you that Miller hates anyone. I can say, with the confidence of my reporting, that he is fluent in hate and deliberately traffics in hate and communicates with people who hate.
I think Miller is always going to have allies in the nativist movement and the white nationalist movement, he’s always going to find a place. He is very ambitious. … He’s told people his ultimate goal is to become a senator, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran for office somewhere. But I don’t think he’s allowed himself to envision an alternate reality where Trump doesn’t win reelection.
I don’t think Miller and everything he represents is going to go away after November. He’s going to continue to rally people around his ideas, which are not just his ideas.
The thing with Bannon and Donald Trump is, they’re out to con people. … Miller is accountable for his own actions and responsible for everything he’s done, but he was indoctrinated at a very young age into this idea that he needed to save the United States from this imagined threat of Black and brown people.
Full LATimes interview with Jean Guerrero and reporter Molly O’Toole:
“If you want to bring in different perspectives, you’ll have a different culture & different environment that will lead you to make different decisions.”
James Bennet, recently resigned opinion editor for the NYTimes, representing collective White privilege patriarchy…father, Douglas Bennet, former NPR Director/Wesleyan University president and part of both the Carter & Clinton administrations, and brother, Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator and former U.S. Presidential candidate. -dayle
A copy of the December 23, 2018, edition of the New York Times.Robert Alexander/Getty Images
America is changing, and so is the media
The media has gone through painful periods of change before. But this time is different
There have always been boundaries around acceptable discourse, and the media has always been involved, in a complex and often unacknowledged way, in both enforcing and contesting them. In 1986, the media historian Daniel Hallin argued that journalists treat ideas as belonging to three spheres, each of which is governed by different rules of coverage. There’s the “sphere of consensus,” in which agreement is assumed. There’s the “sphere of deviance,” in which a view is considered universally repugnant, and it need not be entertained. And then, in the middle, is the “sphere of legitimate controversy,” wherein journalists are expected to cover all sides, and op-ed pages to represent all points of view.
The media’s week of reckoning
Last week, the New York Times op-ed section solicited and published an article by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) arguing that the US military should be deployed to “restore order to our streets.” The piece set off an internal revolt at the Times, with staffers coordinating pushback across Twitter, and led to the resignation of James Bennet, the editor of the op-ed section, and the reassignment of Jim Dao, the deputy editor.
That same week, Stan Wischnowski, the top editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, resigned after publishing an article by the paper’s architecture critic titled “Buildings Matter, Too.” David Boardman, the chair of the board that controls the Inquirer, said Wischnowski had done “remarkable” work but “leaves behind some decades-old, deep-seated and vitally important issues around diversity, equity and inclusion, issues that were not of his creation but that will likely benefit from a fresh approach.”
One interpretation of these events, favored by frustrated conservatives, is that a generation of young, woke journalists want to see the media remade along activist lines, while an older generation believes it must cover the news without fear and favor, and reflect, at the very least, the full range of views held by those in power.
“The New York Times motto is ‘all the news that’s fit to print,’” wrote the Times’s Bari Weiss. “One group emphasizes the word ‘all.’ The other, the word ‘fit.’”
Another interpretation is that the range of acceptable views isn’t narrowing so much as it’s shifting. Two decades ago, an article like Cotton’s could easily be published, an essay arguing for abolishing prisons or police would languish in the submissions pile, and a slogan like “Black Lives Matter” would be controversial. Today, Black Lives Matter is in the sphere of consensus, abolishing prisons is in legitimate controversy, and there’s a fight to move Cotton’s proposal to deploy troops against US citizens into deviance. The idea space is just as large as it’s been in the past — perhaps larger — but it is in flux, and the fight to define its boundaries is more visible.
“Those are political decisions,” says Charles Whitaker, dean of the Medill School of Journalism. “They are absolutely governed by politics — either our desire to highlight certain political views or not highlight them, or to create this impression that we’re just a marketplace of ideas.”
The media is changing because the world is changing
- First, business models built around secure local advertising monopolies collapsed into the all-against-all war for national, even global, attention that defines digital media.
- Second, the nationalization of news has changed the nature of the audience. The local business model was predicated on dominating coverage of a certain place; the national business model is about securing the loyalties of a certain kind of person.
- Third, America is in a moment of rapid demographic and generational change. Millennials are now the largest generation, and they are far more diverse and liberal than the generations that preceded them.
- Fourth, the rise of social media empowered not just the audience but, crucially, individual journalists, who now have the capacity to question their employer publicly, and alchemize staff and public discontent into a public crisis that publishers can’t ignore.
The media prefers to change in private. Now it’s changing in public.
The news media likes to pretend that it simply holds up a mirror to America as it is. We don’t want to be seen as actors crafting the political debate, agents who make decisions that shape the boundaries of the national discourse. We are, of course. We always have been.
“When you think in terms of these three spheres — sphere of consensus, of legitimate debate, and of deviancy — a new way of describing the role for journalism emerges, which is: They police what goes in which sphere,” says Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at NYU. “That’s an ideological action they never took responsibility for, never really admitted they did, never had a language for talking about.”
“Organizations that have embraced the mantra that they need to diversify have not as quickly realized that diversifying means they have to be a fundamentally different place,” says Jelani Cobb, the Ira A. Lipman professor at the Columbia Journalism School and a staff writer at the New Yorker. “If you want to bring in different perspectives, you’ll have a different culture and different environment that will lead you to make different decisions.”
“American view-from-nowhere, ‘objectivity’-obsessed, both-sides journalism is a failed experiment. “We need to rebuild our industry as one that operates from a place of moral clarity.”
-Wesley Lowery, journalist
‘The problem is that they don’t seem to be naming the rise of racialized authoritarianism; the media’s responsibility above all (is to) sound the alarm—boost that signal — it must tell the real story of what’s going on — before it is too late.’
The Tom Cotton op-ed affair shows why the media must defend America’s values
It cannot remain neutral when those values are under threat from racialized authoritarianism.
‘The media must begin to assert some agency over the stories it covers and how it covers them, based on its own values. In discussing journalistic objectivity, Rosen agrees that the media’s work should not be politicized, i.e., produced expressly to help one party/candidate or another.
On the other hand, he says, media cannot help but be political. Modern journalism was meant to play a political role, to expose the truth and hold politicians accountable to the small-l liberal values that make liberal democracy possible. It cannot remain neutral when those values are under threat. Like other institutions — science, the academy, and the US government itself — its very purpose is to both exemplify and defend those values. Its work is impossible without them.
The press should always be fair in the application of its values and standards, but doing so will mean making clear when there is an asymmetry.
The American public, by and large, does not understand this asymmetry and its implications. They do not understand that right-wing authoritarianism is perilously close to toppling US democracy because they are not able to pick that signal out of the noise of daily “balanced” news coverage, wherein everything is just another competing claim, just another good-faith argument to hash out through competing op-eds.
Even in the face of the inevitable pressure campaign from the right, even amid an information environment chocked with conspiracies and nonsense, the press must boost that signal — it must tell the real story of what’s going on — before it is too late.’
The stark front page of today’s New York Times, plus three inside pages, consist of two-line obituaries for 1,000 of the nearly 100,000 Americans who have died of coronavirus — 1% of the toll.
[Note: if the NYTimes had published all the names, not just the 1% of the 100,000, they would have had to punish 100 separate newspaper editions.]
A huge team at The Times drew the accounts “from hundreds of obituaries, news articles and paid death notices that have appeared in newspapers and digital media over the past few months.”
Marc Lacey, national editor, said: “I wanted something that people would look back on in 100 years to understand the toll of what we’re living through.”
Cornelia Ann Hunt, 87, Virginia Beach, her last words were “thank you.”
Restaurant Chains Took Loans Meant for Small Businesses. Will Radio Conglomerates Do the Same?
Watchdog groups fear that language in a new stimulus bill could allow individual stations owned by large companies to “masquerade” as small businesses — and take all the money
The National Association of Broadcasters, a lobbying group that represents modest radio groups as well as the massive chains — including iHeartMedia (around 850 stations), Townsquare Media (around 320 stations), and Entercom (more than 235 stations) — cheered the Heroes Act. “Hometown broadcasters and community newspapers are providing vital news and information during these unprecedented times to keep families and communities safe, while struggling with record advertising revenue losses,” the NAB wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “Broadcasters look forward to working with all Members of Congress to ensure that such legislative language is swiftly enacted.”
But other organizations said the bill’s language undercuts its original intent: to help small businesses. On Tuesday, Craig Aaron, Co-CEO of the media advocacy group Free Press Action, expressed fear that, “as written, this legislation would benefit the biggest chains at the expense of their smaller competitors and other struggling businesses.”
The American Association of Independent Music, which counts more than 700 independent labels as members, also came out against the bill’s current language on Thursday. “It would be a travesty if these large radio conglomerates were able to get money out of the next tranche of PPP forgivable loans,” says Richard James Burgess, the head of A2IM. The big radio companies “are masquerading as small businesses, but they’re gigantic conglomerates.”
Radio conglomerates claim they need these loans to maintain a local presence. But others argue that these conglomerates have never been less interested in being local than they are now. “These are companies that have gone and gutted their payrolls, dumped local talent, and replaced them with robot DJs,” Aaron says. “We’ve gotten so far from local owners that radio is almost unrecognizable now,” Karen Slade, vice president and general manager of the independently owned KJLH in Los Angeles, told Rolling Stone last year.
To recap: The NAB is asking Congress to give radio conglomerates money, supposedly to support their local programming. At the same time, it’s pushing the FCC to jettison ownership rules, which, many worry, will cement radio’s decades-long turn away from local programming.
That’s why small radio chains should absolutely benefit from the latest edition of the PPP. But they — and other mom-and-pop businesses — may be unable to benefit at all if conglomerates end up with all the money.
Pulitzers honor Ida B. Wells, an early pioneer of investigative journalism and civil rights icon
In granting a posthumous citation to Ida B. Wells, the Pulitzer Prizes honors one of America’s earliest and most intrepid investigative reporters.
Ida B. Wells was born a slave in Mississippi in 1862. She became and a writer and publisher who crusaded against lynching and for civil rights in the deep South after the Civil War. It was death-defying work for a black woman, who spent months journeying through the Southern states, investigating the lynchings of black men through records research and in-person interviews — a process that laid the groundwork for modern investigative techniques.
At 30, and as the co-owner and editor for The Memphis Free Speech and Headlight, Wells took on that most famous work, attempting to investigate the trope that lynchings usually followed the rape of white women by black men. She discovered, of course, that this was patently false: “Nobody in this section of the country believes the threadbare old lie that Negro men rape white women,” Wells wrote. Instead, she wrote, the horrible violence — and threat of that violence — were simply a means for white citizens to terrorize and oppress African Americans. Her writing was published across the United States and abroad, and included the pamphlets-turned-books “Southern Horrors” and “The Red Record.”
She continued her career as a journalist and advocate for civil rights, even after her life was threatened and she was forced to flee Memphis, her newspaper offices plundered and her presses destroyed. She is considered one of the founders of the NAACP and her later advocacy included organizing boycotts, the suffrage movement and anti-segregation activism.
She died in Chicago in 1931 of kidney disease. She was 68.
Most recently, The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, established in 2016, is “a news trade organization dedicated to increasing and retaining reporters and editors of color in the field of investigative reporting.” It was founded by journalists Ron Nixon, Topher Sanders and Nikole Hannah-Jones, who also was named a Pulitzer winner today.
The citation comes with a bequest of $50,000, said Dana Canedy, Pulitzer administrator, with details to come.
Constructive News Institute
“This is a breakthrough: For the first time future journalism students are being tested in constructive storytelling. At Danish @cfjsdu applicants had to reflect on CoJo as part of the test to enter our profession. Thanks.”
Newseum, Washington DC, November 2019
May 3, 2020
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on World Press Freedom Day:
“Today, on World Press Freedom Day, we reflect on the crucial work of journalists in Canada and around the world. We also honour the dedicated journalists who have lost their liberty or their lives while in pursuit of the truth.
“The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day is ‘Journalism without Fear or Favour’. It reinforces the fact that press freedom cannot be achieved unless journalists can work safely, free from censorship, intimidation, and violence. When journalists and other media workers cannot investigate and report without interference, the public is deprived of reliable, accurate information and the foundation of our democracies starts to erode.
“Freedom of expression and access to information are vitally important, even more so during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Journalists are working tirelessly on the front lines, at home, and abroad to report on a rapidly evolving global health crisis. But they are doing much more than that: they are keeping us informed and helping us stay safe.
“A free-thinking, independent, and respected media is the cornerstone of any democracy. One cannot exist without the other. That is why Canada continues to defend press freedom and condemn all attempts to stifle the press. It is also why, together with other members of the Media Freedom Coalition, Canada calls on all states to protect access to free media and support the free exchange of information during this pandemic.
“Today, we recognize all the journalists and media workers who start conversations, shine light on stories that would otherwise not be told, expose injustices, and hold the powerful to account – often at great personal risk. They are a vital part of all healthy democracies and, through their work, they spur change and increased transparency that benefit all of us.”
AMID PANDEMIC, PEN AMERICA URGES STATE OFFICIALS TO SUPPORT LOCAL JOURNALISM
PEN America joins with Free Press and Common Cause in nationwide letter campaign urging more support for local press
(New York, NY) – PEN America today led a coalition of local news and press freedom organizations to send letters to governors in all 50 states, as well as the mayor of Washington D.C., urging government leaders to include emergency funding for local news in their coronavirus relief efforts.
PEN America led the coalition effort, alongside Free Press and Common Cause, and it builds on PEN America’s advocacy on Capitol Hill urging Congress to include coronavirus stimulus funds for local news. Forty states have recognized the news media as an essential service, and the coalition urges all governors and political leaders to provide emergency coronavirus funds at the state-level to help bolster the industry at a time when local outlets are suffering financially.
“Local news outlets, ranging from state- to city- and community-level media organizations, are necessary partners in meeting the crucial information needs of people in the United States — especially during today’s public health and economic crises,” the letters read.
“However, COVID-19’s devastating economic impact on local news outlets is threatening their ability to function at all. Over the past two weeks, in the face of plummeting ad revenue, dozens of local publications across the country — from the largest chains to successful nonprofit and community outlets to tribal media and family-owned newspapers — have furloughed or laid off their reporters, reduced their publication frequency, or dropped their print editions altogether. In an industry that employs more than 80,000 people nationwide, many outlets are now struggling to cover even half of their reporters’ salaries, with newsroom layoffs increasing across the country.”
The 51 letters say that local news is essential to informing communities, and especially to informing vulnerable populations likely to be affected by the pandemic. This includes people of color as well as people living in low income communities. For instance, a local news outlet in California responded to listener demand by shifting its reporting to cover the coronavirus and broadcasting in Spanish to better serve the immigrant population.
“As local reporters and outlets have stepped up to provide credible and critical information to communities during the pandemic, so too must state leaders rise to the occasion to support these essential services,” said Nora Benavidez, PEN America’s director of U.S. free expression programs.
“Local news is not a luxury, it is a public good. We urge state governments to act immediately to provide an immediate lifeline to local media.”
In 2019, PEN America released the report “Losing the News” which laid out the vital role played by local news for communities and for democracy, and called for a significant public and private investment in local news, as well as guarantees to ensure editorial independence. Learn more about PEN America’s advocacy effortsto support local news and the group’s spotlight series on journalists covering the pandemic.
PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.
‘Without empathy, journalism is lost.’ -Glen Scanlon
‘We were looking the wrong way. We had failed and were starting from scratch – trying to build relationships in the most awful circumstances.
All great journalism is about connecting with people, telling their stories with due respect and care. Great journalism and leadership needs empathy.’
‘This is the first, and incredibly important, place to help set the tone of our coverage, to talk about respect for the victims, supporting our teams and ensuring they are safe. To emphasise what I expect from our senior leaders, how they work together and with our people. You can’t show empathy without taking the time to understand what others are going through.
In these situations, leaders need to bring calm and consistency when all feels unstable.
Leaders need to ensure people have the support and room to do their work. Forget about what other media outlets are doing. Tell your staff this too. Have the strength to focus on what your people need and the stories you are trying to tell. If you’re slipping into the habits of ‘journalism at any cost’ you, the victims and their stories all lose.
This kind of coverage has an impact on everyone. You should be encouraging the sharing of emotion. Don’t be scared of people’s vulnerability – embrace it and your own. We took the practical step of immediately setting up counselling for staff. At times like this, trust comes from being empathetic.
Ultimately, you need to talk about values, not just the nuts and bolts of coverage. They give shape to everything. Our mantra was clear – it’s about the people. They are us.’
So everyday we split our resources into different groups – people are given time to build relationships and follow unique angles; some are on the daily round of important official announcements; others research deeper angles at a national level and build new material.
“What worked really well was the relentless focus on reporters’ welfare and that constant focus on telling the stories of the victims. It was like a mantra when people were tired; tell the stories of people involved. It was simple and true and decent and right. And we all tried to follow it.”
“For about a month we were regularly reminded to get support and sing out if we were struggling, but then people started moving on.
“The main thing companies can do for reporters covering trauma is to foster a safe environment for open kōrero [to tell, say, speak, read, talk, address] about how they’re feeling. It’s isolating enough having to report on such an event (you return to your normal life and no one quite understands what you’re up against) so it’s important to feel like it’s safe to reach out to your colleagues, speak about your mental health and ask for help when you need it.’
‘A famous journalism quote says our work is about speaking truth to power. I don’t believe this is enough.
We need to better represent the under-represented. We also need people from these communities to be encouraged into journalism.
The current Covid-19 crisis is a perfect example. Those with the least voice will suffer the most.’
‘Journalism faces an extinction event.’ If you value democracy, please buy a paper today or subscribe to a news organisation. We are an industry that has been battling for years but COVID-19 is an existential threat to independent journalism everywhere.’
-Carole Cadwalladr, The Guardian & The Observer
Facing a possible “extinction event” for independent media worldwide, journalists must work together globally to combat a triple threat of disinformation, government restrictions and economic calamity worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, three top editors said during an ICFJ webinar Friday.
Maria Ressa, the founder of Rappler in the Philippines, said that although her outlet is in a comparatively secure financial position, many other news organizations globally are at risk of collapse. And the result could be that many citizens might not be able to count on independent media to continue to provide factual information free of government control once the shock waves of the pandemic have subsided.
-The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ)
The Sandpoint Reader in Sandpoint, Idaho, was forced to lay off most of its staff after it lost advertising revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mountain West News Bureau
Newspapers Face Existential Question: How To Cover The Pandemic When There’s No Money?
By Nate Hegyi
Ben Olson is exhausted.
‘Olson appears close to burning out, trying to keep his readers up-to-date with the latest COVID-19 news. The region has dozens of confirmed cases and, like the rest of the country, that number is growing. But at the same time, the number of reporters and staff at the Reader has shrunk – from four down to just one: Olson.
“I want to get my staff back to work because, number one, they’re like my family and I feel responsible for them,” he says. “But number two – I just cannot handle this by myself.”
Olson had to lay off his staff after local restaurants and bars shut down in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. Those businesses often advertised events in the Sandpoint Reader’scalendar. But no events mean no money.
“I realized very quickly that I would probably make one or possibly two more payroll cycles and then I would be completely bankrupt,” he says.
It’s a problem that’s reverberating throughout the Mountain West’s media landscape. The COVID-19 pandemic is deepening the cracks and fissures in a centuries-old business model, one that traditional newspapers and alternative weeklies still rely on.
There are no journalists without robust advertising dollars to pay for them, and money from subscription and circulation revenues can only go so far – they often cover less than half of a newspaper’s expenses.
“This is a real disaster for media that are supported by advertising in general,” says Ben Smith, a media columnist for the New York Times who recently wrote an op-ed titled “Bail Out Journalists. Let Newspaper Chains Die.”
He points out that many traditional newspaper chains were on life support before the pandemic – they’ve been cutting costs by shutting down papers and laying off staff. COVID-19 just sped up the clock and Smith doesn’t expect a happy ending.
“I think we’re going to wind up with fewer journalists next year than this year, just as it has been for the past several years,” he says.
“I think there is an increasing recognition that journalism is a public service,” he says. “It’s a utility like water or electricity, in terms of keeping a community going and is an appropriate outlet for philanthropy.”
It’s a business model that has been adopted by an increasing number of news outlets across the Mountain West. Late last year, The Salt Lake Tribune became the first legacy newspaper to transform itself into a nonprofit organization. Montana Free Press embraced the nonprofit model when it launched a few years ago.
“Most of our revenue comes from members who donate to us like they would to public radio,” says John S. Adams, editor-in-chief of Montana Free Press.
Currently the outlet is doing well financially, he says. They’ve seen skyrocketing readership and an uptick in donations during the pandemic.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico and with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Professor Jay Rosen, NYU:
“The battle to prevent Americans from understanding what went down January to April is going to be one of the biggest propaganda and freedom of information fights in modern U.S. history. Data erasure and the manufacture of mass confusion have already begun.”
OfficialCounts Understate the U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll
[click photo to follow story link]
More than 9,400 people with the coronavirus have been reported to have died in this country as of this weekend, but hospital officials, doctors, public health experts and medical examiners say that official counts have failed to capture the true number of Americans dying in this pandemic. The undercount is a result of inconsistent protocols, limited resources and a patchwork of decision-making from one state or county to the next.
Early in the U.S. outbreak, virus-linked deaths may have been overlooked, hospital officials said. A late start to coronavirus testing hampered hospitals’ ability to detect the infection among patients with flulike symptoms in February and early March. Doctors at several hospitals reported treating pneumonia patients who eventually died before testing was available.
Every pandemic in history has been followed by a cultural and social blossoming. This one can too, but only if we use this time to reflect on what that blossoming might look like. In the midst of the darkness that’s our slice of light.
From Journalists and Teachers of Journalism
“Americans consistently rate the Fox News Channel as one of the most trusted TV channels. The average age of Fox News viewers is 65. It is well established that this population incurs the greatest risk from the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, Fox News viewers are at special risk from the coronavirus.
But viewers of Fox News, including the president of the United States, have been regularly subjected to misinformation relayed by the network — false statements downplaying the prevalence of COVID-19 and its harms; misleading recommendations of activities that people should undertake to protect themselves and others, including casual recommendations of untested drugs; false assessments of the value of measures urged upon the public by their elected political leadership and public health authorities.
The misinformation that reaches the Fox News audience is a danger to public health. Indeed, it is not an overstatement to say that your misreporting endangers your own viewers — and not only them, for in a pandemic, individual behavior affects significant numbers of other people as well.
Yet by commission as well as omission — direct, uncontested misinformation as well as failure to report the true dimensions of the crisis — Fox News has been derelict in its duty to provide clear and accurate information about COVID-19. As the virus spread across the world, Fox News hosts and guests minimized the dangers, accusing Democrats and the media of inflating the dangers (in Sean Hannity’s words) to “bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.” Such commentary encouraged President Trump to trivialize the threat and helped obstruct national, state, and local efforts to limit the coronavirus.
The network’s delinquency was effective. According to a YouGov/Economist poll conducted March 15–17, Americans who pay the most attention to Fox News are much less likely than others to say they are worried about the coronavirus. A Pew Research poll found that 79% of Fox News viewers surveyed believed the media had exaggerated the risks of the virus. 63% of Fox viewers said they believed the virus posed a minor threat to the health of the country. As recently as Sunday, March 22, Fox News host Steve Hilton deplored accurate views of the pandemic, which he attributed to “our ruling class and their TV mouthpieces — whipping up fear over this virus.”
Fox News reporters have done some solid reporting. And the network has recently given some screen time to medical and public health professionals. But Fox News does not clearly distinguish between the authority that should accrue to trained experts, on the one hand, and the authority viewers grant to pundits and politicians for reasons of ideological loyalty. There is a tendency to accept (or reject) them all indiscriminately, for after all, they are talking heads who appear on Fox News, a trusted source of news. When the statements of knowledgeable experts are surrounded by false claims made by pundits and politicians, including President Trump — claims that are not rebutted by knowledgeable people in real time — the overall effect is to mislead a vulnerable public about risks and harms. Misinformation furthers the reach and the dangers of the pandemic. For example, the day after Tucker Carlson touted a flimsy French study on the use of two drugs to treat COVID-19, President Trump touted “very, very encouraging early results” from those drugs, and promoted a third as a possible “game changer.”
The basic purpose of news organizations is to discover and tell the truth. This is especially necessary, and obvious, amid a public health crisis. Television bears a particular responsibility because even more millions than usual look there for reliable information.
Inexcusably, Fox News has violated elementary canons of journalism. In so doing, it has contributed to the spread of a grave pandemic. Urgently, therefore, in the name of both good journalism and public health, we call upon you to help protect the lives of all Americans — including your elderly viewers — by ensuring that the information you deliver is based on scientific facts.”
(If you are a journalist or teacher of journalism and would like to add your name, click here.)
Todd Gitlin, Professor, Chair, Ph. D. Program in Communications, Columbia Journalism School
Mark Feldstein, Eaton Chair of Broadcast Journalism, University of Maryland
Frances FitzGerald, Pulitzer Prize-winning author
Adam Hochschild, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley
Edward Wasserman, Dean, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley
Lisa R. Cohen; Columbia Journalism School
Gerald Johnson, Texas Student Media
Susan Moeller, Professor, Merrill College of Journalism, UMD, College Park
Maurine Beasley, University of Maryland College Park
Michael Deas, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University
Ivan Meyers, Medill School at Northwestern University
Helen Benedict, Professor, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University
Hendrik Hertzberg, longtime staff writer and editor, The New Yorker
Lewis Friedland, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Com, UW-Madison
Dr. Tom Mascaro, Ph.D. Bowling Green State University, School of Media & Communication
Tom Bettag, Visiting Fellow, University of Maryland
Betty H Winfield University of Missouri Curators’ Professor Emerita
Frank D. Durham, University of Iowa
Dennis Darling Professor, School of Journalism, The University of Texas at Austin
Jonathan Weiner, Maxwell M. Geffen Professor of Medical and Scientific Journalism Columbia Journalism School
Ari L. Goldman, professor, Columba University Graduate School of Journalism
Jennifer Kahn, Narrative Program Lead, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley
Meenakshi Gigi Durham, Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Iowa
Deirdre English, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley
Rosental C Alves, University of Texas at Austin
Pauline Dakin, Ass. Professor, University of King’s College, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Nina Alvarez, Assistant Professor, Columbia Journalism School
Travis Vogan, University of Iowa
Ali Noor Mohamed, United Arab Emirates University
Linda Steiner, Acting Director, Ph.D. Studies; Professor, Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, College Park
Lucas Graves, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UW — Madison
Anna Everett, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara
Richard Appelbaum, Fielding Graduate University; UCSB Emeritus
Tom Collinger, Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism
Wenhong Chen, Founding Co-director, Center for Entertainment and Media Industries Associate Professor ofMedia Studies and Sociology, Moody College of Communication The University of Texas at Austin
LynNell Hancock, Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
Donna DeCesare, Associate Professor, School of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin
Barbie Zelizer, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania
Michael Murray, UM Curators Distinguished Professor Emeritus, UM-St. Louis
Michael Schudson, Columbia University
Martin Kaplan, Norman Lear Chair in Entertainment, Media and Society, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Brian Ekdale, University of Iowa
Gina Masullo, University of Texas at Austin
Krishnan Vasudevan, Assistant Professor, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland at College Park
Harold Evans, former editor Sunday Times and The Times, London
Chuck Howell, Librarian for Journalism & Communication Studies, University of Maryland
Clarke L. Caywood Ph.D, Professor Medill School of Journalism Media Integrated Marketing Communications
Andie Tucher, Director, PhD program in Communications, Columbia Journalism School
Kalyani Chadha, Associate Professor, University of Maryland
Denis P. Gorman, Freelance Journalist
Jon Marshall, Northwestern University
Kevin Lerner, Marist College
Joel Whitebook, Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research
Abe Peck, Prof. Emeritus in Service, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, Northwestern University
Carrie Lozano, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley
Susie Linfield, Dept of Journalism, New York University
Charles Berret, University of British Columbia
Jay Rosen, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University
Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, Professor of Journalism, The University of Texas at Austin
Joseph Straubhaar, Professor, School of Journalism, University of Texas, Austin
Edward C Malthouse, Haven Professor, Medill School of Journalism, Media and IMC, Northwestern University
Mitchell Stephens, Professor of Journalism, New York University
Patricia Loew, Ph.D. Professor, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University
Richard Fine, Professor of English, Virginia Commonwealth University
John E. Newhagen Associate Prof. Emeritus University of Marylans
Caryn Ward, Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing and Communication
David Hajdu, Professor, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism
Naeemul Hassan, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland
Stephen D. Reese, School of Journalism & Media, U of Texas at Austin
Kevin Klose, Professor, University of Maryland
John Vivian, Winona State University
Sue Robinson, Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Thomas P. Oates, University of Iowa
Samuel Freedman, Columbia Journalism School
Susan Mango Curtis, Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University
Prof. Robert S. Boynton, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU
Leonard Steinhorn, Professor of Communication and Affiliate Professor of History, American University
J.A. Adande, Medill School, Northwestern
Victor Pickard, University of Pennsylvania
Summer Harlow, Assistant Professor, University of Houston
Danielle K. Kilgo, Ph.D., Indiana University
Jack Doppelt, Northwestern University
Gerry Lanosga, The Media School, Indiana University
Martin Riedl, PhD Candidate, School of Journalism, The University of Texas at Austin
Rich Shumate, School of Media, Western Kentucky University
Mac McKerral, School of Media, Western Kentucky University
Mel Coffee, University of Maryland
David J. Vergobbi, University of Utah
Tom Boll, part-time instructor, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University
Dannagal G. Young, Associate Professor of Communication and Political Science, University of Delaware
Ken Light, Reva and David Logan Professor of Photojournalism, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
George Harmon, emeritus faculty, Medill School of Journalism
Rachel Young, University of Iowa
Carol M. Liebler, Professor, Newhouse School, Syracuse University
Kyu Ho Youm, University of Oregon
Julianne H Newton, University of Oregon
Bethany Swain, University of Maryland
Gi Woong Yun, Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada, Reno
Thomas E. Winski, MJE Retired Assistant Professor of Journalism, Emporia State University
Roy L Moore, Professor (retired), Middle TN State University
Ira Chinoy, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland
Jay Edwin Gillette, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Information and Communication Sciences Center for Information and Communication Sciences, Ball State University
Michael Anderson, retired journalist
Kimberley Shoaf, Professor of Public Health, University of Utah
Erica Ciszek, University of Texas at Austin
Daniel C. Hallin, University of California, San Diego
Keith W. Strandberg, Webster University, Geneva
Sophie Furley, Editor
Frank Sesno, Director, George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs
Timothy V. Klein, Louisiana State University
*Affiliations listed for identification only.