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The role of media festivals in strengthening independent media

August 28, 2023

Festivals taking place across the Global South are attracting increasingly global attendees. This brief discussion paper looks at four diverse examples of such festivals – Media Party in Argentina, Festival 3i in Brazil, Splice Beta in Thailand, and the Africa Media Festival in Kenya – and seeks to develop preliminary hypotheses about the nature of these events, what distinguishes them from other events in the independent media ecosystem, what they hope to achieve, and how they are evolving.It also seeks to discern patterns or learnings emerging from these festivals that suggest practical recommendations for those running, setting up or supporting such events in the future, and includes concrete examples of practices that other practitioners can learn or adapt from. We also explore the role of media festivals in the resilience of local regional and global digital native ecosystems.The report has been authored by independent consultant Sameer Padania, who was an active participant in all four festivals featured, as part of a consultancy project for International Media Support, funded by the Ford Foundation. He was a judge for a pitch session and ran one workshop at Media Party, gave three clinics and one workshop at Splice Beta, co-ran one workshop and co-moderated a donors' meeting at the Africa Media Festival, and spoke on a panel at Festival 3i. The report also draws on inputs from IMS programme managers and partners.

Mitigating Online Misleading Information and Polarization in Conflict-Sensitive Contexts: Experimental Evidence from Côte d’Ivoire

August 3, 2023

As misinformation and polarization increase, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) faces new challenges in its support for electoral integrity, party development, democratic governance, and citizen participation. Our Global Design, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (G-DMEL) team, in partnership with NDI's Côte d'Ivoire program, aimed to answer the following question: What kinds of democracy interventions - separately or in combination – can impact online misinformation uptake and dissemination among youth, and reduce affective polarizations across partisan divides? With funding from the NED and in collaboration with leading academic researchers from Evidence in Governance And Politics (EGAP), NDI experimentally tested the impacts of four types of intervention hypotheses: one based on capacity building (training on digital literacy) and three designed to mitigate socio-political motivations to consume and disseminate misinformation. The findings revealed that traditional digital literacy interventions alone did not change youth capacity to identify misinformation, nor their behavior in knowingly sharing misinformation. Surprisingly, social identity interventions did have impacts, but in unexpected directions. These critical insights are paving the way for NDI to rethink strategies to combat misinformation in highly polarized environments.

“Developing” Intellectuals in Cold War Burma: The Production of The Atlantic's 1958 Country Supplement

July 28, 2023

This report features part of an article I am working on about development, soft power, and Cold War competition in 1950s Burma and Indonesia, from the perspective of Burmese and Indonesian intellectuals and artists.  It tells the backstory of the production of The Atlantic's 1958 supplement on Burma, one of several country supplements the Ford Foundation produced throughout the 1950s as part of its Intercultural Publications project. James Laughlin's reports in the Ford Foundation archives reveal the fascinating backstory of the issue and the agency of intellectuals within Cold War development programs, while pointing to the neglected role of "culture" in the history of development.  

Could News Bloom in News Deserts?

July 12, 2023

Key PointsDue to the steady decline of print news in America, many Americans now live in news deserts, where there is no newspaper covering local issues. The absence of information on local news and local politics weakens our communities and our political process.Despite this trend, over 100 new papers or online local news sites have opened within the past several years. To stay in business, they have experimented with new approaches to staffing and funding.It may be time to expand the role of government or philanthropy in supporting local news, which produces countless benefits for communities but is rapidly disappearing.

The Disinformation Landscape in West Africa and Beyond

June 29, 2023

The prominence of West Africa, and Africa as a whole, within the global disinformation ecosystem cannot be ignored. A report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies released in April 2022 identified twenty-three disinformation campaigns targeting African countries dating back to 2014. Of these campaigns, sixteen are linked to Russia.This report examines several influence operation case studies from the West African region, with a particular emphasis on Mali, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Niger. The narratives, actors, and contexts supporting these influence operations are summarized alongside their impact on regional stability. Russian influence plays a significant role in these case studies, an unsurprising fact considering the geopolitical history of this region. This report also includes case studies from outside the Sahel region, consisting of thematically distinct but strategically noteworthy influence campaigns from elsewhere on the continent.

Media Ecosystems and Youth Voting: Profiles of County-Level Support for Civic Participation

June 27, 2023

A complex, interconnected web of conditions in a community shape young people's civic development, their access to information about politics and elections, and their ability to meaningfully participate in civic life. One major element of those conditions is the media, which includes not just formal news outlets but an ecosystem of institutions, information pathways, technological access, and online/offline behaviors.A new CIRCLE project examines that relationship by creating profiles of what media ecosystems look like in different communities across the U.S., the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of those profiles, and their connection to youth voter turnout in recent national elections. You can explore this research through a new interactive data visualization and a full report.

An Immigration Advocate's Need-to-know for Policy Change: A Conversation with the APA's Katherine B. McGuire

June 27, 2023

This policy brief is based on a conversation with Katherine B. McGuire, chief advocacy officer of the American Psychological Association (APA) and a special guest at the Baker Institute Migration Initiative's "Conversations on Immigration" event on April 25, 2023. McGuire suggested that, instead of losing sight of their goals, immigration reform advocates learn to navigate today's political environment and use opportunities to push for progressive legislation on immigration by engaging with policymakers on both sides of the aisle as well as their constituents. According to McGuire, immigration reform advocates should work toUnderstand the political landscape at both the federal and state levels.Find common ground with members of Congress.Soften resistance at the state level.Educate the American public on the harmful mis- and disinformation about immigrants through storytelling, a powerful tool to prime the political landscape for change — the key objective of advocacy work.

Reviving News Media in an Embattled Europe

June 21, 2023

For over a decade, a series of crises have undermined the media's ability to support democracy. Traditional business models have collapsed with the rise of the internet and social media platforms. Hyperpartisan news sites and disinformation have damaged readers' trust in online content. At the same time, illiberal leaders in several democracies have developed sophisticated methods for silencing and co-opting the media.Freedom House conducted in-depth research and interviews with nearly 40 media professionals and experts in six countries: Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Poland. The countries vary by market size and by the health of their democracy, but all are part of the European Union (EU), where members are debating important regulatory measures to protect media independence and pluralism under a proposed European Media Freedom Act. Freedom House examined four conditions affecting the playing field for independent news media and their role in democracy: their ability to sustain themselves financially, reach and engage diverse audiences, earn public trust, and play a watchdog role.

Information Disorder in Iraq: Trends, Perceptions and Implications

June 9, 2023

Since 2019, dis and misinformation traffic in Iraq has increased exponentially, affecting not only politics, but also public health and citizens' livelihoods. In collaboration with the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Tech4Peace conducted a study to understand the most prevalent disinformation narratives in the information space, including but not limited to: political disinformation, election narratives, COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation, and socio economic issues. The purpose of this study, and report, is to analyze case studies and trends of misinformation and disinformation in Iraq, providing a series of recommendations to best monitor the information space and generate awareness on critical issues facing Iraq such as the environment, politics, and human rights.

Distorting Nigeria's Elections? How Disinformation Was Deployed in 2023

June 8, 2023

This report highlights key trends observed in the proliferation of disinformation before and during Nigeria's 2023 election. It argues that false and misleading information on social media has the potential to affect voter behaviour which in turn can lead to voter apathy, suppression, election interference, and a general distrust of the electoral system.It details the tactics used by political actors and supporters to get this distorted information into circulation. It argues that for the first time in Nigeria's recent electoral history, we saw the use of fact checks from credible organisations to campaign against their opponents, leveraging the trust the voting public has in fact-checkers to improve their chances at the polls. We also saw, in a continuation from previous polls, the use of synthetic and manipulated media to drive disinformation campaigns and an evolution of the sophistication of audio leaks was also observed, with manipulated audio used to construct conversations between politicians to push certain narratives. The report also documents an increase in the number of new online 'news' websites that propagated political and ethno-religious disinformation in the build-up to Nigeria's 2023 general elections.

Elevating Latino experiences and voices in news about racial equity: Findings and recommendations for more complete coverage

March 15, 2023

Every day, Latinos in the United States encounter — and work to dismantle — many forms of inequality. Latinos are disproportionately killed by police, face unaffordable rent and high risks of homelessness, and are more likely than non-Latino groups to experience hunger and material hardship, like difficulty paying bills. These are all racial injustices, rooted in fundamentally unequal systems and structures, but do we recognize them as such? And are connections between racial injustices and Latinos, the country's largest ethnic minority, clear?  Studying whether — and how — these issues appear in the news can give us answers. That's because news institutions play a powerful role in shaping public conversations. Journalists provide both policymakers and the public with information on events, trends, social injustices, and other developments in our communities, the nation, and beyond. Knowing how issues are discussed in the media, then, gives us a baseline for understanding how people are — or aren't — thinking about our world's challenges, who is affected by them, and what solutions seem possible.To gain a window into the current state of public discourse surrounding racial equity and to identify opportunities for improvement, BMSG researchers, in consultation with UnidosUS, explored how Latino communities have been represented in national news about both racism and racial equity (including news about issues like inequities in wealth, housing, and health). We reviewed news published in both print and online national outlets. We studied the content, tone, and perspectives included in or excluded from news coverage and used our findings to make recommendations for journalists, advocates, and philanthropists to expand and deepen their understanding of racial equity and to improve news coverage of Latinos.

Media Wealth Building: The Report of the Local News Plans Project

March 8, 2023

Between September 2022 and January 2023, the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF) worked with local communities in Bangor, Bristol, Folkestone, Glasgow, Manchester and Newry, to create 'Local News Plans' for their areas.                                                                                           We facilitated discussions between local stakeholders, including news providers, businesses, community groups, councillors and others, to find out what they think about the state of local news, what impact this is having on their communities, and what they believe is needed to build a more sustainable local news economy.We're excited to share the full Local News Plans project report, written by Jonathan Heawood and Sameer Padania  in collaboration with NewsNow, the UK's independent news discovery platform. We found that:People believe that local news should be truly local. They don't want 'cookiecutter' local news, but original local news that truly reflects their area. Despite their passion and commitment, local news providers are struggling to meet this need. Commercial providers are chasing page views, whilst independent providers are burning themselves out with long hours and low pay.Local stakeholders are keen to support new funding models for local news. They recognise that old revenue models have been disrupted, but they believe that, in many places, new sources of local funding can be found for local news.The Local News Planning process unlocks collaboration. It brings people together in a powerful spirit of creativity, agency and optimism.These findings confirm the scale of the challenge facing local news, but they also contain the seeds of a new approach that we call 'media wealth building'.