What we’re reading

Official Censorship Should Have No Place in the Digital Public Square

With Donald Trump gone from the White House and banned from the major social media platforms, the Supreme Court on Monday finally brought an end to the long-running litigation over the former president’s practice of blocking critics from his Twitter account, declaring the case to be moot.
April 7, 2021
Official Censorship Should Have No Place in the Digital Public Square

Platforms vs. PhDs: How tech giants court and crush the people who study them

A legal standoff between NYU researchers and Facebook sheds light on the increasingly fraught dynamic between tech companies and academics.
March 19, 2021
Platforms vs. PhDs: How tech giants court and crush the people who study them

Uncivil Liberty: The labor of democracy never ends.

Released in the two-hundredth-anniversary year of the signing of the Declaration of Independence,  Paddy Chayesky’s script for the 1976 film Network finds the outraged television news anchor Howard Beale urging his viewers to rise up in revolutionary protest against a world in which “there is no America, no democracy,” only the vast and inhumane “dominion of dollars.” Beale names the twentieth century’s colossal capitalist cash machine as the equivalent of the eighteenth-century British Empire dominating a world in which the man or woman who would be free must stand and say, “I’m a human being, goddamn it. My life has value.”
March 12, 2021
Uncivil Liberty: The labor of democracy never ends.

How Facebook got addicted to spreading misinformation

It was March 23, 2018, just days after the revelation that Cambridge Analytica, a consultancy that worked on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign, had surreptitiously siphoned the personal data of tens of millions of Americans from their Facebook accounts in an attempt to influence how they voted.
March 11, 2021
How Facebook got addicted to spreading misinformation

Positive Signs For Local Media In 2021? Now That’s Breaking News

The assault on the local news business has been relentless and endlessly reported: Facebook and Google gobbling up more and more of what were once locally-spent advertising dollars, the old “classifieds” of newspapers now a distant memory, and the audience for local (never mind national) evening newscasts getting older and scarcer. 
March 10, 2021
Positive Signs For Local Media In 2021? Now That’s Breaking News

How LeBron James Uses His Influence to Improve Community Development

Professional sports stars often use their prominence to influence public opinion and advocate change, including in real estate development. One standout is LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers forward and four-time National Basketball Association champion.
March 9, 2021
How LeBron James Uses His Influence to Improve Community Development

Fake News Gets More Engagement on Facebook—But Only If It’s Right-Wing

Far-right pages that publish misinformation get the most interactions by far compared to other news sources, new research shows. 
According to researchers at the Cybersecurity for Democracy project at New York University, far-right purveyors of misinformation have by far the highest levels of engagement per follower compared to any other category of news source.
March 3, 2021
Fake News Gets More Engagement on Facebook—But Only If It’s Right-Wing

Split Screen: How Different Are Americans’ Facebook Feeds?

Facebook’s recommendation algorithm shows different news, groups, and hashtags to different users. But who sees what? Split Screen attempts to answer that question with real world data from paid panelists as part of The Markup’s Citizen Browser project.
March 2, 2021
Split Screen: How Different Are Americans’ Facebook Feeds?

The ‘audacious lie’ behind a hedge fund’s promise to sustain local journalism

When Alden Global Capital announced Tuesday that it was positioned to buy the Chicago Tribune and several other major newspapers, its statement might have sounded promising.

February 17, 2021
The ‘audacious lie’ behind a hedge fund’s promise to sustain local journalism

Democracy Is Weakening Right in Front of Us

A decade ago, the consensus was that the digital revolution would give effective voice to millions of previously unheard citizens. Now, in the aftermath of the Trump presidency, the consensus has shifted to anxiety that online behemoths like Twitter, Google, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook have created a crisis of knowledge — confounding what is true and what is untrue — eroding the foundations of democracy.
February 17, 2021
Democracy Is Weakening Right in Front of Us

Microsoft’s Endorsement of Australia’s Proposal on Technology and the News

Last week, Microsoft endorsed an Australian proposal that would require tech gatekeepers like Facebook and Google to share revenue with local independent news organizations. Microsoft’s endorsement followed a statement by Google that it would pull its search service out of the country if the Australian Parliament approves the proposal. Facebook similarly said that if the proposal is adopted, it would stop Australian users from sharing news on its Facebook and Instagram platforms.
February 11, 2021
Microsoft’s Endorsement of Australia’s Proposal on Technology and the News

Twenty-Six Words Created the Internet. What Will It Take to Save It?

Jeff Kosseff wrote the book on Section 230, the law that gave us the internet we have today. He talks with ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg about how we got here and how we should regulate our way out.
February 9, 2021
Twenty-Six Words Created the Internet. What Will It Take to Save It?

Strategic Philanthropy Gets a Wake-Up Call

Over the past 20 years, the philanthropic sector has moved to a more business-like, data-driven approach, which has come to be called strategic philanthropy. The key elements of this approach—goal setting, strategy development, and measurement—have strengthened the field in some ways.
February 8, 2021
Strategic Philanthropy Gets a Wake-Up Call

Ibram X. Kendi: This Is the Black Renaissance

A young woman came up to the microphone after another student had had his turn. I was book touring for Stamped From the Beginning at a historically Black university in Dover, Del. Looking freshman young, her darker skin curled around a nervous face. Or a curious one?
February 3, 2021
Ibram X. Kendi: This Is the Black Renaissance

How Do We Regain Trust in Institutions?

In his new book, “Mistrust,” Ethan Zuckerman takes us on a kaleidoscopic tour of everyone from Gandhi to Bitcoin enthusiasts, Brexit voters to Black Lives Matter activists — people and groups whom he calls “insurrectionists” because they are trying to overthrow or work around what has been a worldwide decline in social trust. 
January 28, 2021
How Do We Regain Trust in Institutions?

The QAnon Shaman Reminds Me of My Best Friend, and Other Musings on Saving Democracy

Along with what felt like all of America, I was glued to my screen on Wednesday. Inauguration Day had finally finally arrived. I watched the proceedings with bittersweet relief. My Twitter timeline hummed happily with outfit psychoanalysis, J Lo said whats?, and mitten memes.
January 24, 2021
<strong>The QAnon Shaman Reminds Me of My Best Friend, and Other Musings on Saving Democracy</strong>

Benevolent Haze
With the Emerson Collective, Laurene Powell Jobs is becoming a force in American media. What is she trying to achieve?

It was an old dream. In 1854, just after the peak of the gold rush, Ferdinand Ewer started a magazine, The Pioneer, with the claim that “no attempt has heretofore been made to establish in California a periodical of a purely literary character.” In 1856, J.M. Hutchings founded California Magazine “to give utterance to the inner life and experience” of the state’s recent settlers, “in their aspirations, hopes, disappointments and successes—the lights and shadows of daily life.”
January 21, 2021
Benevolent Haze<br>With the Emerson Collective, Laurene Powell Jobs is becoming a force in American media. What is she trying to achieve?

What Parler Saw During the Attack on the Capitol

As supporters of President Donald Trump took part in a violent riot at the Capitol, users of the social media service Parler posted videos of themselves and others joining the fray.
January 17, 2021
What Parler Saw During the Attack on the Capitol

The Parler Bans Open a New Front in the ‘Free Speech’ Wars

Apple, Google, and Amazon booted the site from their own platforms. But who moderates the moderators?
January 13, 2021
The Parler Bans Open a New Front in the ‘Free Speech’ Wars

Saving Journalism: A Vision for the Post-Covid World

Dozens of plans to help save journalism have emerged since the Covid-19 pandemic decimated media outlets around the world. This report summarizes some of the trends we’ve seen and evaluates where they currently stand. Most promising are Australia’s efforts to get Google and Facebook to pay for news and efforts in the U.S. to get laws and investment that would support local news.
January 11, 2021
Saving Journalism: A Vision for the Post-Covid World

When Politics Becomes Substance Abuse

What deranges someone to the point that they’re willing to storm the Capitol? Consider the addictive power of social media.
January 11, 2021
When Politics Becomes Substance Abuse

Here’s What It Was Like to Be a Marine Turned Journalist Capturing the US Capitol Assault

Journalist and Afghanistan War veteran Chris Jones found himself face to face with a former Marine at the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6, as he covered the breach of the building for a West Virginia news publication.
January 11, 2021
Here’s What It Was Like to Be a Marine Turned Journalist Capturing the US Capitol Assault

We are not ‘Silicon’ anything. We are #MiamiTech — of, by and for this community 

Miami is a haven for innovators, builders and those who wield technology as a powerful tool of social change.
January 1, 2021
We are not ‘Silicon’ anything. We are #MiamiTech — of, by and for this community 

The year deepfakes went mainstream

In 2020, AI-synthetic media started moving away from the darker corners of the internet.
December 24, 2020
The year deepfakes went mainstream

Predictions for Journalism 2021

Each year, we ask some of the smartest people in journalism and media what they think is coming in the next 12 months. At the end of a trying 2020, here’s what they had to say.
December 23, 2020
Predictions for Journalism 2021

Anti-vaccination groups target local media after social media crackdownsing is a tool, not a crime

From California to Maine, local news stations have been giving anti-vaccination activists a platform to spread misinformation.
December 17, 2020
<strong>Anti-vaccination groups target local media after social media crackdownsing is a tool, not a crime</strong>

Algorithms Behaving Badly: 2020 Edition

Computers are being asked to make more and more weighty decisions, even as their performance reviews are troubling.
December 15, 2020
Algorithms Behaving Badly: 2020 Edition

Web scraping is a tool, not a crime

Web scraping is one of the most powerful tools journalists have to hold companies and governments accountable.
December 8, 2020
<strong>Web scraping is a tool, not a crime</strong>

Paywalls, Newsletters, and the New Echo Chamber

When everything is subscription-based, how many news sources will any one person actually read?
December 7, 2020
Paywalls, Newsletters, and the New Echo Chamber

We read the paper that forced Timnit Gebru out of Google. Here’s what it says.

The company’s star ethics researcher highlighted the risks of large language models, which are key to Google’s business.
December 4, 2020
We read the paper that forced Timnit Gebru out of Google. Here’s what it says.

Some free-speech norms are in danger. Maybe that’s a good thing.

What’s wrong with the democratic experiment? As the United States faces what many believe are existential threats to its political processes, and fragile political systems around the world slip into new, technologically savvy variants of authoritarianism, many commentators say we are suffering a crisis of democracy.
November 6, 2020
Some free-speech norms are in danger. Maybe that’s a good thing.

With augmented realty, you can now superimpose publicly exhibited artworks in your home

Art institutions are embracing AR during the Covid-19 pandemic—and making art more accessible in the process
November 4, 2020
With augmented realty, you can now superimpose publicly exhibited artworks in your home

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell wants to save local newspapers

Cantwell’s report recommends that Congress intervene to save the local free press. It offers three ideas.
November 2, 2020
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell wants to save local newspapers

Facebook’s threat to the NYU Ad Observatory is an attack on ethical research

Facebook may defend its actions on the grounds of user privacy, but its real concern is losing control of how the company is scrutinized, researcher Andy Sellars argues.
October 29, 2020
Facebook’s threat to the NYU Ad Observatory is an attack on ethical research

Can Journalism Be Saved?

A Washington Monthly package on how to rescue and revitalize the press.
October 27, 2020
Can Journalism Be Saved?

The Problem of Free Speech in an Age of Disinformation

How a torrent of propaganda, lies and conspiracy theories has weaponized the First Amendment.
October 26, 2020
The Problem of Free Speech in an Age of Disinformation

As Local News Dies, a Pay-for-Play Network Rises in Its Place

A nationwide operation of 1,300 local sites publishes coverage that is ordered up by Republican groups and corporate P.R. firms.
October 26, 2020
As Local News Dies, a Pay-for-Play Network Rises in Its Place

Museums Are Back, but Different: A Visitor’s Guide

The visitors may be masked, but the art is gradually coming into full view
October 21, 2020
Museums Are Back, but Different: A Visitor’s Guide

COVID-19’s impact on the media, in 10 charts

Although there are some data-lags, we can discern some notable trends. Here are eight of them
October 14, 2020
COVID-19’s impact on the media, in 10 charts

The National Trust for Local News

Proposing a new framework for newspaper ownership and governance that leverages national capital markets and supports accountability and decision-making in local communities.
October 4, 2020
The National Trust for Local News

The Power of Parks in a Pandemic 

For city residents, equitable access to local green space is more than a coronavirus-era amenity. It’s critical for physical, emotional, and mental health.
April 9, 2020
The Power of Parks in a Pandemic