This collection on American democracy challenges and complements blog posts and opinion pieces that are typical staples of the 24/7 news cycle in the lead up to US elections. You'll find reports about election and campaign administration, voting access and participation, government performance and perceptions, the role of the media in civil society, and more.

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"VOTE!" by Paul Sableman licensed under CC BY 2.0

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American Views 2022: Part 1 - News in America: Public Good or Private Enterprise?

October 19, 2022

A robust press is vital to a healthy democracy. But newsrooms need resources to create reliable news that is accessible and free from influence. Since 2017, Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have studied public opinion on the news media's role in American democracy, with a focus on Americans' expectations and evaluations of the news in delivering on its civic function of informing the public. In this report, Gallup and Knight turned their focus to American views on how the news should be sustained. The research underscores the urgency of developing revenue models that will support trustworthy journalism today.The top findings include: Most Americans believe news organizations prioritize their own business needs – over serving the public interestDespite Americans' emphasis on the media's commercial nature, seven in 10 Americans say they have never paid for newsMore than half (52%) believe advertising should be a news organization's largest revenue sourceAmericans, particularly Gen Z and millennials, do show an openness to public funding and reliance on private donations as a way to support the newsEvents and newsletters could be a promising revenue source


A Guide to Protecting Newsrooms and Journalists Against Online Violence

September 27, 2022

Online violence poses a constant threat to journalists, resulting in serious implications for press freedom, including self-censorship. This abuse disproportionately affects women and diverse journalists who are often reluctant to speak out for fear of jeopardizing their careers.The IWMF is dedicated to promoting a culture of change in newsrooms when it comes to tackling online violence. This guide details policies and best practices newsrooms can implement to better protect staff members who are targeted simply for doing their jobs.The guide also includes case studies from six months of work with a wide range of newsrooms – from small specialized outlets covering health in South Africa to established independent newsrooms in the United States.


Information Gaps and Misinformation in the 2022 Elections

August 2, 2022

The problem of election misinformation is vast. Part of the problem occurs when there is high demand for information about a topic, but the supply of accurate and reliable information is inadequate to meet that demand. The resulting information gap creates opportunities for misinformation to emerge and spread.One major election information gap developed in 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic drove many states to expand access to voting by mail. Inadequate public knowledge about the process left room for disinformation mongers to spread false claims that mail voting would lead to widespread fraud. Election officials could not fill information gaps with accurate information in time. As is now well known, no less than former President Trump promoted these false claims, among others, to deny the 2020 presidential election results and provoke the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.In 2022, false narratives about a stolen 2020 election persist, even as an unprecedented spate of restrictive voting law changes across the country has created fresh information gaps and, thus, fresh opportunities for misinformation. Since 2020, at least 18 states have shrunk voting access, often in ways that dramatically alter procedures voters might remember from the past. Meanwhile, lies and vitriol about the 2020 election have affected perceptions of election administration in ways that complicate work to defend against misinformation.This paper identifies some of the most significant information gaps around elections in 2022 and new developments in elections oversight that will make it harder to guard against misinformation. Ultimately, it recommends strategies that election officials, journalists, social media companies, civic groups, and individuals can and should use to prevent misinformation from filling gaps in public knowledge. Lessons from other subjects, such as Covid-19 vaccine ingredients and technologies, show how timely responses and proactive "prebunking" with accurate information help to mitigate misinformation.

Campaigns and Elections; Media

INN Index 2022: The State of Nonprofit News

July 27, 2022

Nonprofit news is driving sustained, multi-year growth, and the number of outlets providing local coverage has rapidly increased over the past four years, according to the 2022 INN Index Report.New data from the INN Index 2022, the fifth annual survey of nonprofit news organizations across North America, offers a look at the sector's trends, opportunities and challenges in the years ahead. The INN Index 2022 is based on 2021 data from 93% of INN's membership.


Misleading Information and the Midterms: How Platforms are Addressing Misinformation and Disinformation Ahead of the 2022 U.S. Elections

July 20, 2022

Since 2020, misinformation and disinformation related to election and voter suppression have continued to spread at a growing rate across online platforms. While internet platforms ramped up attempts to combat such information during the 2020 elections, many of these efforts appear to have been temporary measures. In anticipation of the 2022 U.S. midterm elections, this report evaluates how online platforms are combating misleading election information against a selection of recommendations made by the Open Technology Institute in 2020. Using this data, the report demonstrates which platforms have made the most progress on tackling misleading election information, which platforms are falling behind, and where companies need to invest more resources.


Journalists Sense Turmoil in Their Industry Amid Continued Passion for Their Work

June 14, 2022

Much of Pew Research Center's earlier research on the U.S. news environment has focused on the public's news consumption habits and views toward the news media. This major new undertaking was designed to capture the other side of the equation, asking U.S.-based journalists to provide their own perspective on the industry they work in.The main source of data for this study is a Pew Research Center survey of 11,889 U.S.-based journalists who are currently working in the news industry and said that they report, edit or create original news stories in their current job. The survey was conducted online between Feb. 16 and March 17, 2022. 


The Authoritarian Playbook: How reporters can contextualize and cover authoritarian threats as distinct from politics-as-usual

June 10, 2022

Newsrooms are reckoning with how journalists can adequately cover an increasingly anti-democratic political movement in the United States. In covering these events, they face a constant challenge of covering all angles of a story without drawing equivalencies between candidates or politicians who operate within the normal bounds of democratic politics and those who may seek to undermine elections and the rule of law. The media has an essential role to play that is unbiased, but not neutral in applying a consistent standard about threats to democracy.In light of the authoritarian threat, the ongoing process of media evolution and adaptation necessitates that the media may draw on a different toolkit today than it did in the eras of Walter Lippmann's "Public Opinion," the Pentagon Papers, or Watergate.This briefing is designed to help the fourth estate advance this "unbiased but not neutral" role in a healthy democracy by providing two contextualizing resources: a common playbook of tactics used by would-be autocrats in the U.S. and around the globe, and a framework for distinguishing between these authoritarian tactics and normal political jockeying


Local Newspapers Fact Sheet

May 31, 2022

The transition to digital news consumption has hit the newspaper industry hard in recent years. Some national publications have managed to weather the storm in part by attracting digital subscribers, but many local newspapers have been forced to shutter their doors permanently, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.To gain a clearer picture of how locally focused U.S. newspapers have fared in the digital age, Pew Research Center researchers reexamined data included in the Center's State of the News Media newspapers fact sheet, excluding four publications that reach a large national audience. (Three of these four newspapers reach national audiences in addition to their respective local audiences.) These four publications – The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today – account for a large share of circulation in the newspaper industry and as such overshadow their locally focused counterparts in the data. Specifically, this analysis looks at economic data from publicly traded newspaper companies' financial statements (2011-2020 for digital advertising revenue and 2013-2020 for total revenues), circulation data from Alliance for Audited Media (2015-2020), and digital audience data from Comscore (2014-2020). This addendum supplements the State of the News Media newspapers fact sheet, which presents the analysis at the overall industry level.


Influencing the Internet: Democratizing the Politics that Shape Internet Governance

May 24, 2022

Internet governance refers to the processes to make decisions about how the internet is managed locally, nationally, regionally and internationally. This sociotechnical infrastructure (which includes the people, practices, standards and institutions that govern different components of the internet) has evolved in a way that is often indifferent to questions of human rights, justice and democracy.Research from this new white paper by the National Democratic Institute has found there is a lack of meaningful participation or oversight in these institutions from civil society, journalists and democratically elected political actors. The voices heard in internet policy and regulatory spaces are not geographically diverse, with inadequate representation from outside of North America, Europe and China. Even among high-income countries, women of all backgrounds, as well as people with disabilities and those who do not speak English fluently, face challenges in participating in internet governance fora.Current models of internet governance are being challenged from different directions, not all of them positive for democracy, as different stakeholders acknowledge these flaws. One challenge is in determining how multistakeholder institutions can reinvent themselves to offer a better alternative and avert a slide toward state-dominated governance models, by making themselves into something that stakeholders who currently feel excluded have greater reason to support. If these traditionally underrepresented stakeholders were to gain more negotiating leverage in internet governance institutions, existing and future norms would be renegotiated and the resulting standards, policies and protocols would have the potential to better serve democratic outcomes.This white paper explores some of the barriers to participation in national, regional and international fora on the development of internet norms, policies, and standards. It also outlines recommendations for different stakeholder groups, including donors, development agencies, governments, activists, civil society organizations, internet governance institutions, and the private sector, to improve coordination and make meaningful progress towards more inclusive outcomes.


Investments in Local News Sustainability: Early Learnings and Insights

May 21, 2022

In February 2019, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced that it would double its investment in strengthening journalism to $300 million over five years, with a focus on building the future of local news and information, which are essential for democracy to function. In early 2020, Knight Foundation and Impact Architects launched this assessment of Knight's investments in local news sustainability with the goal to better understand the impacts of these investments and promising practices that contribute to sustainability. This report is an interim learning memo assessing these investments after each of these programs has been operating for at least one full year. The main objective of this assessment is to understand the effects of grantees' interventions in the context of Knight's goals for sustainability of local news, particularly with respect to audience and revenue growth. We know that the long-term sustainability of local news cannot be divorced from the need for local news organizations to be diverse, equitable and inclusive, with sophisticated organizational practices and representation from the communities they aim to serve. So, we include these aspects of organizational growth and development in the qualitative elements of this assessment, as well.  Given the upheaval of 2020 and 2021, the assessment has continually adjusted in response to our ever-changing reality. The assessment includes eight unique interventions being carried out by ten grantee organizations, all of which are B2B organizations supporting newsrooms through grantmaking, programming, training and networking. To test the Knight Foundation's hypotheses with respect to local news sustainability, we are gathering comparable quantitative data from newsrooms pre- and post-grantee intervention with respect to audience, revenue, operations, staff and culture. These quantitative metrics, together with interviews to generate qualitative data, are used to answer key questions and provide insights regarding:The return on investment (ROI) of investments with revenue-generating outcomes;The impact of grantee interventions on participating newsrooms' financial health and sustainability;The relative strengths of different grantee interventions with respect to audience growth, revenue generation and organizational culture shift;The effect of grantee interventions on newsrooms in the context of sector-level trends.


Alt-Finance for Alt-Tech: Monetizing the Insurrection Online Before and After January 6

May 5, 2022

This brief maps the financial tools and techniques employed by alt-tech industry leaders like Gab's CEO Andrew Torba, high-profile members of the Proud Boys, and others implicated in the January 6 Capitol attack and the far-right's assault on American democratic institutions. For many in this milieu, Amazon's decision to pull hosting for Parler following the Capitol attack was a clarion call to the need for a parallel web, and prominent players have since flocked to the task of building it. 


Hard News: Journalist and the Threat of Disinformation

April 14, 2022

Professional journalists, editors, and news organizations that provide credible reporting and promote informed civic engagement stand as a bulwark against the onslaught of disinformation being injected into public discourse. It is from their newspapers, websites, and broadcasters that communities can expect to access reliable information and understand the debates that shape their societies. Journalists have long been tasked with holding public officials to account, thwarting obfuscation by those with political or economic power, and probing for the facts. Never before, however, have they had to do so in the face of such an extreme surge of falsehoods and manipulations supercharged by algorithms and nefarious actors, and at a time when their news outlets are struggling for survival with starkly depleted resources.In a nationwide survey, PEN America asked reporters and editors from local, regional, and national outlets how working amid floods of disinformation—content created or distributed with intent to deceive—is altering their profession, their relationships with their sources and audiences, and their lives. Responses from more than 1,000 U.S. journalists reveal that disinformation is significantly changing the practice of journalism, disrupting newsroom processes, draining the attention of editors and reporters, demanding new procedures and skills, jeopardizing community trust in journalism, and diminishing journalists' professional, emotional, and physical security. Journalists told PEN America how worried they are about the impact of disinformation on their work, the time and effort it takes to keep from inadvertently spreading falsehoods—and how underequipped they and their newsrooms are to effectively counter the torrents of untruths that threaten a free press's critical role in our democratic process. Only 18 percent of the reporters and editors responding said they were being offered sufficient professional development support on how to detect and report on disinformation.