Older Big Issues
By Katharine Schwab
5 July 2018
Facebook is a political battleground where Russian operatives work to influence elections, fake news runs rampant, and political hopefuls use ad targeting to reach swing voters. We have no idea what goes on inside Facebook’s insidious black box algorithm, which controls the all-powerful News Feed. Are politicians playing by the rules? Can we trust Facebook to police them? Do we really have any choice?
By Michelle Fabio
7 April 2018
In today’s installment of "I’m Not Terrified, You Are," Bloomberg Law reports on a FedBizOpps.gov posting by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the relatively benign-sounding subject “Media Monitoring Services.”
By Mark Di Stefano
29 March 2018
Two of Britain's most prestigious media brands, the Economist and the Financial Times, hired controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica to help them get more subscribers in the United States, BuzzFeed News has learned.
As the fallout continues from a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower's bombshell claims that the London-based firm misused Facebook data in an effort to intervene in elections around the world, there are now questions about whether commercial clients also benefited from the data.
By Nicky Woolf
15 February 2018
David Moore is having fun. The former director of the Participatory Politics Foundation, a nonprofit open-government group that operated OpenCongress.org — a site that tracked the revolving door between Congress and lobbying and became a leading resource for government transparency — is now part of a project with an ambitious goal: finding a way to save journalism.
The Algorithms Aren’t Biased, We Are
5 January 2018
Excited about using AI to improve your organization’s operations? Curious about the promise of insights and predictions from computer models? I want to warn you about bias and how it can appear in those types of projects, share some illustrative examples, and translate the latest academic research on “algorithmic bias.”
By Mossy Wittenberg
27 June 2018
A few months ago, an executive at a popular Chinese social media platform told me confidently that “there’s no fake news in China”. I wasn’t fully sure what he meant. At face value, the assertion is plain wrong: the presence of misinformation and rumour (propaganda aside) across all media channels in mainland China, from traditional state-backed outlets to digital platforms, is well documented. Search giant Baidu claims to investigate three billion reports of fake news every year. A report from The School of Communication and Design at Sun Yat-sen University, written with WeChat’s security team, analyses 2,175 fake news stories spread on the platform in 2015–16; while executives at Tencent, at Sina Corp (owners of microblogging site Sina Weibo), and at Bytedance (parent company of Douyin and news aggregator Jinri Toutiao), have all spoken publicly about their efforts to contain fake news.
By Caroline O.
6 June 2018
Three months after being indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice, the notorious Russian troll factory known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA) has launched a new media venture targeting Americans. This time, however, there’s reason to believe the project may not be just another influence operation, but rather an intelligence gathering experiment.
The project, called “USA Really. Wake Up Americans,” was first announced in April by RIA FAN (riafan.ru), a St. Petersburg-based media empire that is known to be an offshoot of the Internet Research Agency. In a joint press release/job announcement that appeared in both Russian and English, RIA FAN called on English-speaking journalists and authors to apply for the new venture, which was described as an “information agency” that would combat “growing political censorship imposed by the United States” by “promoting information and problems that are hushed up by major American publications controlled by the US political elite.”
By Joe Amditis
7 May 2018
There are several problems with Yung’s post but, for the sake of time, I’ll do my best to address some of the most egregious among them.
By Caroline O.
18 April 2019
Reddit released a list of 944 accounts last week that it said were created by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the notorious “troll factory” based in St. Petersburg, Russia. This is the first time Reddit has publicly disclosed the names of IRA accounts on its website, following similar disclosures by Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.
In a post accompanying the list of 994 IRA accounts, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said the company “did not detect any effective use of these accounts to engage in vote manipulation.” It’s not entirely clear what Huffman meant by this statement. While there is no evidence to suggest Reddit was used in any efforts to directly manipulate votes (i.e., by changing vote totals), there is evidence that exposure to “fake news” influenced voters’ decisions and contributed to Trump’s win. However, the degree to which Reddit contributed to the spread of “fake news” (misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda) ahead of the 2016 presidential election has not yet been determined.
By Jonathan Ladd, with Alex Podkul
8 April 2018
Looking closely at the data, we can see that while confidence in the press declined among both parties in the 1980s and 1990s, a large and still growing gap opened between the parties after 2000.
By Danielle Allen and Justin Pottle
1 April 2018
It was a time when elites were worried about a public manipulated into nationalist fervor by divisive populist figures. Students were not being taught how to tell propaganda from facts, was the concern. So in the 1930s, department store magnate Edward Filene and a small group of educational reformers founded the Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA) in hopes of teaching young people to identify and resist information manipulation.
By Shane Greenup
20 March 2018
I have found myself using the term Fake News more than any other word or phrase to describe what I, and many others, are fighting against in this war against untruth, despite the fact that I agree with everyone who says we need to do away with the term.
By Rasmus Kleis Nielsen
18 March 2018
In many countries over the past few years, the political process – and social cohesion – have been threatened by various forms of disinformation, sometimes misleadingly and inadequately called “fake news”. Politically-motivated and for-profit disinformation is blamed, among other things, for the UK’s decision to vote to leave the EU and the election of Donald Trump as US president.
By Ory Okolloh
10 March 2018
We live in a growing environment of public mistrust, especially when it comes to the media, and the explosion of the number of sources of information makes deciphering what is factual, what is misinformation, and what is propaganda increasingly difficult. An absence of credible information prevents citizens from participating in public decision-making, particularly on key issues of concern such as education, health, and governance.
By Nancy Watzman
24 February 2018
Since launching this site in mid-November, we’ve been asking you for your ideas on how to improve trust in the media and strengthen our democracy. We’ve summarized and submitted what you’ve told us to the members of the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy ahead of their meeting last week in Miami, Florida. Here is what we told them.
By Andrew Guess, Benjamin Lyons, Brendan Nyhan & Jason Reifler
14 February 2018
With critics decrying the “echo chambers,” “filter bubbles,” and “information cocoons” created by the rise of online news and social media, you’d think that the entire American public was consuming a near-exclusive diet of politically pleasing news.
Voters do increasingly face an information glut that requires them to make choices about what news to consume. In these polarized times, it may therefore seem intuitive that people will overwhelmingly select into or be directed toward media and information flows that confirm their pre-existing biases, further reinforcing those views.
By Frederic Filloux
11 February 2018
French startup Storyzy spotted six hundred forty-four brands on questionable sites ranging from hard core fake news sites, hyper-partisan ones, to clickbait venues hosting bogus content with no particular agenda, except making a quick buck.
17 January 2018
Public trust in the media is at an all-time low. Results from a major new Knight-Gallup report can help us understand why.
As the debates over trust in media, misinformation and control over information rage, a new Knight-Gallup survey of more than 19,000 U.S. adults shows that Americans believe that the media have an important role to play in our democracy — yet they don’t see that role being fulfilled.
By Aaron Edell
14 January 2018
We made a fake news detector with above a 95% accuracy on (a validation set) that uses machine learning and Natural Language Processing that you can download here. In the real world, the accuracy might be lower, especially as time goes on and the way articles are written changes.
By Ravi Somaiya
28 June 2018
It’s an instructive exercise to think of the news media as a friend who tells you things. In the years before 2007—before smartphones and social media—she or he showed up once or twice a day, and declared with great seriousness and certainty what she or he thought the most important stories of the last 24 hours were.
In 2018 she or he has become a constant chorus. According to figures provided by media analytics company Newswhip, The Washington Post published 10,580 individual things in May of this year, including wire stories, graphics, and other miscellania. CNN published 9,430, The New York Times 5,984, The Wall Street Journal 4,898, and NPR 2,254.
By Kriston Capps
4 June 2018
When local newspapers shut their doors, communities lose out. People and their stories can’t find coverage. Politicos take liberties when it’s nobody’s job to hold them accountable. What the public doesn’t know winds up hurting them. The city feels poorer, politically and culturally.
According to a new working paper, local news deserts lose out financially, too. Cities where newspapers closed up shop saw increases in government costs as a result of the lack of scrutiny over local deals, say researchers who tracked the decline of local news outlets between 1996 and 2015.
By Matt Karolian
16 April 2018
Spend any measurable time talking with journalists and you’ll be bombared with critiques of Facebook. Some theories are farcical, such as Facebook purposefully crushing organic page reach of publishers so they are forced to Facebook ads to reach their fans (I honestly doubt Zuckerberg, or anyone else at Facebook, thinks newspapers have big ad budgets.) Others, such as Facebook being a prime vehicle for spreading devisive, sensationalistic, half-truths ring, very, very true.
By Nathan Bomey
11 April 2018
After moving to Arlington, Va., in 2015, I quickly discovered that two of the seminal events of the information age occurred within steps of each other about a mile from my new home.
Just north of Wilson Boulevard in the Rosslyn neighborhood near the Potomac River is the parking garage where Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward famously met in the early 1970s with Deep Throat, the secret source who helped to expose the Watergate scandal.
By Suchit Leesa-Nguansuk
6 February 2018
Thailand is the world leader for time spent on the internet and mobile internet per day, a consequence of higher social media use and the popularity of online video consumption. Thailand ranks in the top 10 for mobile social media penetration and top four for time spent on social media, according to social media management platform Hootsuite and global agency We Are Social.
By Jeffrey M. Jones and Zacc Ritter
30 January 2018
As the information available to news consumers has expanded greatly in recent decades, Americans believe the media landscape is becoming harder to navigate. They say the increase in the information available today makes it harder (58%), rather than easier (38%), to be well-informed because people have to sort through lots of information to determine what is true or important.
By Emily Kaiser
23 July 2018
Hi, my name is Emily, and I’m a data geek.
My problem started when I became a financial journalist at Reuters. As a U.S. economics correspondent, I was immersed in a daily deluge of government data. I could tell you, to the third decimal place, how much Americans owed on their home mortgages. I knew how much time the average person spent eating (it’s approximately 1.17 hours per day — thanks, Labor Department!)
By Steven Pearlstein
10 July 2018
Recently I went looking for a well-run company to write about — the sort of corporate profile that used to be the bread and butter of business reporting. I quickly hit upon Clorox, which regularly shows up on the list of best companies to work for and recently walked away with an unusual number of awards for its marketing campaigns. I was also intrigued by the challenge of writing about a company in a “boring” industry like consumer packaged goods (Clorox bleach, S.O.S. scrub pads, Burt’s Bees lip balm, Brita water filters, Kingsford charcoal) rather than tech or finance.
By Alan Keegan
29 June 2018
Multiple times a day, the President of the United States types a thought into his phone, my pocket buzzes, and I read his message. I don’t watch the news anymore.
On TV we get perspective on the white house in the form of a few selected clips from a longer press conference, where someone (who at some point spoke to the president about talking points) gives evasive answers to leading questions from journalists, which are then re-cut and heavily editorialized by major news networks (before being replayed 4 times an hour for 24 hours).
I get a direct, disintermediated line to the president. In fact we all have a direct, disintermediated line to anyone who has a twitter account.
By Danah Boyd
20 June 2018
For the second time in a week, my phone buzzed with a New York Times alert, notifying me that another celebrity had died by suicide. My heart sank. I tuned into the Crisis Text Line Slack channel to see how many people were waiting for a counselor’s help. Volunteer crisis counselors were pouring in, but the queue kept growing.
1 June 2018
The relationship between news organisations and platforms has shifted. According to Bell, the reason for this change comes as a result of the investment by investigative journalists and independent academic researchers: Craig Silverman’s work on fake news, Jonathan Albright’s research into algorithms, and most recently, the Cambridge Analytica story, which ‘has completely changed everything’.
By Hannah Ellis-Petersen
16 May 2018
The editor of the Bangkok Post newspaper has said he has been forced to step down after refusing to curtail critical coverage of the ruling military government.
Umesh Pandey, who has held the position since July 2016, said the board of directors had asked him to “tone down” the newspaper’s reporting and editorials on the actions of the military government, particularly over their suppression of freedom of speech and the delays over long-promised elections.
By Freia Nahser
15 May 2018
The Guardian reports that it is well on track with its three-year strategy to make the Guardian sustainable and break even at operating level by 2018–19.
‘More than 800,000 people now financially support the Guardian, up 200,000 from a year ago. Of these about 200,000 are print or digital subscribers, more than 300,000 are members or regular contributors, and more than 300,000 gave one-off contributions’.
By Megan McArdle
1 May 2018
Bloomberg, my former employer, is reportedly moving to a paywall. If that turns out to be true, I can’t say I’ll be surprised.
When I announced that I was leaving Bloomberg View for The Washington Post’s opinion section in February, many longtime readers gently reproached me for moving my writing behind a subscriber paywall. Some of them were not so gentle. How could I cut myself off from readers like that? Was I really so arrogant as to think they ought to pay for the privilege of reading me?
By Mark Phillips
7 May 2018
The state of press freedom in Australia has deteriorated over the past decade, with the impact of national security laws on journalism the biggest concern, according to a survey of more than 1200 people conducted by MEAA.
But few journalists say their employer is keeping them informed about changes to national security laws which may impact on their work, and more than half have no confidence that they could protect sources from being identified through their metadata.
Almost 90% of the 1292 people who completed the online survey believe that press freedom has worsened over the past decade, with just 1.5% saying it had got better.
By Cherian George
2 May 2018
Every year on May 3, World Press Freedom Day serves to remind people of the perils faced by journalists around the world. That message, though, probably falls flat among those who have lost faith in journalism as a force for good. In recent years, authoritarian populist politicians have cultivated this cynicism, attacking the credibility of the press to make their own tenuous relationship with truth appear no worse.
By Adrienne Lawrence
3 May 2018
Mark Zuckerberg wants you to know that he cares, really cares, about journalism.
“I view our responsibility in news as two things,” he said in a wide-ranging conversation with a small group of news editors and executives assembled in Palo Alto for a journalism gathering known as Off the Record on Tuesday afternoon. “One is making sure people can get trustworthy news.”
By Jay Rosen
18 April 2018
In a book called Politics and Vision, the philosopher Sheldon Wolin said that when there is vision, “things appear in their corrected fullness.” This helps explain what I mean by optimizing for trust. It is a vision or direction in which we can move.
For trust can no longer be assumed. Its continuous production has to be designed in. Nor does trust any longer follow from good practice, which is what American journalists used to mean by the term credibility. Once upon a time, you “had” credibility if you followed the rules of good practice. That doesn’t work anymore.
We have to design the modern news organization so that it is easier for people to trust it. (Which of course doesn’t guarantee that they will.) We might even say that trust has to become more agile.
Maybe We Have Been Trying to Solve the Problems of Journalism the Wrong Way
By Xin Feng
15 April 2018
It strikes me that whenever I talk to some friends outside of the journalism community, both in China and the United States, about the many threats journalism is facing nowadays, their first reaction is often: “Oh wow, really? I didn’t know that!”
But to many journalists like me, the situation has become dire: People read what they believe is true instead of what is true. Technology companies have utterly disrupted the news media’s ecosystem and yet claim no responsibility to inform their users. News organizations are finding themselves less and less incentivized to fund costly investigative reporting.
By Cristina Romero
6 April 2018
One of the greatest challenges in development reporting is creating connections. How can journalists build strong links between people from both sides of the world and make them relate to topics that seem so far away from their immediate reality?
By Ethan Zuckerman
2 April 2018
The news is in crisis.
I’ve been studying news and digital media since 2002 and the news has been in crisis for those past 16 years, possibly longer. And not just the handwringing “oh no, citizens are producing their own news, what will happen to journalism as a profession?” crisis. No, we’re more than a decade into the “We can’t afford to pay for the news, what happens now?” crisis, and no closer to a solution.
By Daniela Kraus
20 February 2018
In times of digital transition, media enterprises are constantly looking for people with specific technical or managerial skills. But these enterprises cannot neglect the core expertise that all newsrooms require: journalism.
Have you recently browsed through articles on future jobs in newsrooms? If so, you’ve probably learned that newsrooms are increasingly seeking growth editors, platform wranglers, newsroom conductors, or automation editors. These jobs are necessary to keep pace with the ongoing digital transition process. However, in this race, we sometimes seem to forget that all newsrooms — big or small, global or local — need real journalists in order to be successful.
By Cory Haik
10 February 2018
Facebook ostensibly announced a major change to its News Feed algorithm via a push notification from the New York Times. A notification heard ‘round the media world, with news that was intended less for it than for the 2 billion-plus humans that spend time on the social media platform. Facebook was getting back to its roots, to its original mission of connecting friends and family. It wanted to create more “meaningful social interaction,” as opposed to, we can only assume, non-meaningful social interaction. Read: no more viral publisher (or brand) “space junk” — seemingly random, purposeless, churned-out content — floating in the Feed. If implemented as such, this should be celebrated, full stop.
By Penseur Robinson
1 February 2018
Steven Spielberg’s latest film, “The Post” tells an interesting, but well-worn historical tale. It doesn’t dig new dirt, plow new ground, or tell us anything those of us old enough to remember didn’t already know.
By Mike McCue
27 January 2018
As election day 2016 approached in the United States, thousands of specifically targeted Americans began seeing racially, politically and religiously charged ads on Facebook with headlines like “Don’t Mess With Texas Border Patrol” and “Satan: If I Win, Clinton Wins!”. The ads spanned the spectrum of divisive American issues. Some promoted far-right positions while others were radically liberal.
By Howard Amos
24 January 2018
After she was fired as editor-in-chief of Russia’s highly respected media outlet RBC for critical reporting, Elizaveta Osetinskaya left her country and headed to the US. Now she’s founded The Bell, a six-person media start-up fighting for space in Russia’s troubled world of independent media. The Calvert Journal caught up with Osetinskaya to talk about The Bell, state control, and the future of journalism. Howard Amos reports
22 January 2018
Whether it’s combatting misinformation, being strategic in the use of our limited resources, restoring audience trust or tackling the complicated stories our audiences need us to cover, collaboration between newsrooms is no longer a luxury reserved for special projects, it’s a daily necessity. Heather Bryant is a guest writer of the Monday Note.
By Lydia Polgreen
18 January 2018
We live in a cacophonous world. Thousands of voices shout for our attention from our social media timelines and TV screens. It’s hard to know what deserves our focus and what to tune out. At HuffPost, we believe it’s our job to bring you, our audience, the most thoughtful, diverse and provocative points of view from across the globe. So today we are launching two new sections: Opinion and Personal. Read the HuffPost article
9 December 2017
An Outline investigation found that contributors to prominent publications have taken payments in exchange for positive coverage. See The Outline
3 January 2018
By Margaret Sullivan
When most newspapers get a new publisher, few people know or care. It gets a shrug, except by those directly affected. But when Arthur G. Sulzberger took over this week as the top boss at the New York Times, even President Trump took notice, blurting out a tweet that managed to be simultaneously insulting, congratulatory and divisive. (“The Failing New York Times has a new publisher, A.G. Sulzberger. Congratulations! Here is a last chance for the Times to fulfill the vision of its Founder, Adolph Ochs, ‘to give the news impartially, without fear or FAVOR, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved.’ ”)
4 March 2018
Voters in Switzerland have decisively rejected a proposal to abolish the national broadcasting license fee. The country was voting in a referendum on Sunday on whether to axe the mandatory yearly fee of 451 Swiss francs ($480; £348) per household.
More than 71% voted against the plan, which was defeated in all 23 states. The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) offers programming in four different national languages - German, French, Italian, and Romantsch.
By Frederic Filloux
5 March 2018
Periodically, I hear someone say, “Oh, I intend to be the Spotify of news,” or, “What the news industry needs is a Spotify-like platform!” In fact, it is far from certain that the news industry could pull out a profitable model based on Swedish streaming. Why? Because, after ten years of operation, Spotify’s future is still uncertain, and a news version of would face the same issues.
By Heidi N. Moore
2 March 2018
Journalists in America’s major newsrooms are asking a question of their bosses: Is anyone in charge here?
Turmoil is currently engulfing The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Time Inc., NPR, and others—enough in fact to mark this moment as one in which internal civil wars are threatening to break out unless something changes. And the only thing that will fix it is a wholesale reckoning with newsroom culture that many newsrooms have long ignored and only just started to address. (Here’s a hint: It starts with something media executives are not particularly practiced at, which is listening to staff instead of talking at them).
By Maria Teresa Ronderos
1 March 2018
In the last few weeks, we confirmed that one country can indeed derail the public debate of another during the critical election period, infesting the information waters with piranha-like social media bots and fake profiles carefully crafted to deepen divisions and erode faith in democratic systems.
It’s no wonder that media, as protagonists of this muddled ecosystem, are particularly worried about losing trust. In the last two years, universities, philanthropic and non-governmental organizations, and digital platforms have been developing diverse projects to study how media loses the public’s confidence, and finding practical ways this trend could be reversed.
By Caroline Scott
17 January 2018
Community journalism, the local news coverage typically focused on neighborhoods, suburbs and small towns, helps to address gaps in the mainstream media, providing increased diversity, greater depth and context to reporting in any particular area. With the advancement of technologies such as virtual reality (VR), live-streaming capabilities, 8K video footage and 5G internet, it's never been easier for local news organizations to get eyeballs on stories outside of the mainstream, national news agenda. Read the story in Journalism
26 June 2018
The Swiss government has presented proposals aimed at promoting public service online media as part of a larger reform of the broadcasting law.
Online media play an increasingly important role in a digitalised world, beside traditional radio and television or print sources, Communications Minister Doris Leuthard told a news conference on Thursday.
Burundi Media Regulator Suspends BBC and VOA, Warns Other Broadcasters
7 May 2018
Authorities in Burundi should immediately lift a six-month licensing suspension imposed on radio broadcasts of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Voice of America (VOA), the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Burundi's National Communication Council (CNC), the media industry regulator, on May 4 accused the two stations of breaching the country's media laws and professional ethics and ordered the stations' licensing suspended, according to a statement from the regulator. A government agency that regulates telecommunication subsequently turned off their signals, according to media reports.
RT Under The Microscope
20 April 2018
On April 18, the British communications regulator, Ofcom, announced that it had launched investigations into seven programs broadcast by Kremlin outlet RT since the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury on March 4.
Ofcom’s duties include ensuring that all broadcasters licensed in Britain observe standards of accuracy and impartiality. RT has repeatedly been featured in Ofcom investigations in recent years, with a number of findings both for and against the channel. @DFRLab assessed the background here.
By Abdi Latif Dahir
17 April 2018
Uganda is proposing a tax on social media use in a bid to curb gossip online and to raise billions of shillings in government revenue.
Starting July, president Yoweri Museveni’s government wants to charge a daily price of UGX 200 (US$ 0.05) to mobile phone subscribers using services including WhatsApp, Viber, Twitter, and Skype. The new measures come after Museveni reportedly wrote a letter to the treasury in March stating how idle talk on social media was costing the country much-needed time and income.