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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.

Winning the Web: How Beijing Exploits Search Results to Shape Views of Xinjiang and COVID-19

May 27, 2022

As the war in Ukraine unfolds, Russian propaganda about the conflict has gotten a boost from a friendly source: government officials and state media out of Beijing. In multiple languages and regions around the world, China's "wolf warrior" diplomats and state media routinely amplify Kremlin conspiracy theories rationalizing President Vladimir Putin's invasion, and undermining the credibility and appeal of the United States, NATO, and independent media — even as China declines to endorse the Kremlin's adventurism wholesale. This spring, for example, China's messengers promoted the baseless Russian claim that the United States has been supporting a biological weapons program in Ukraine -- at times, more aggressively than Russia itself.Because Russian state media have been deamplified or banned by multiple Western social media platforms, Beijing's messaging could play an outsized role in channeling Kremlin talking points to audiences around the world. These narratives do not just spread on social media. Beijing's state-funded publishers have considerable success in a domain that has received comparatively little attention: search results.For months, our team has been tracking how China has exploited search engine results on Xinjiang and COVID-19, two subjects that are geopolitically salient to Beijing — Xinjiang, because the Chinese government seeks to push back on condemnation of its rights record; COVID-19, because it seeks to deflect criticism for its early mishandling of the pandemic. In both cases, Beijing is quite focused on positioning itself as a responsible global leader and softening perceptions to the contrary. To evaluate these concerns, we compiled daily data over a 120-day period on 12 terms related to Xinjiang and COVID-19 from five different sources: (1) Google Search; (2) Google News; (3) Bing Search; (4) Bing News; and (5) YouTube.

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.

It Takes a Journalist: Impact Report

May 20, 2022

Free speech, free markets and free elections are under attack across the world. Authoritarian leaders are becoming bolder. And the dangers are all too clear -- Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has destroyed lives and threatens to destabilize our world order.These trends are daunting. But they are not the full story. Thanks to supporters like you -- who understand the power and importance of journalists as defenders of democracy -- we are fighting back.

Words vs Actions: The truth behind the advertising of the car and airline industries

May 19, 2022

New analysis by environmental research group DeSmog, commissioned by Greenpeace Netherlands, "Words vs. Actions, the truth behind the advertising of the car and airline industries", shows how European airline and car companies use advertising to evade their climate responsibilities by either exaggerating their corporate response to the climate crisis or completely ignoring the damage their products cause. Greenpeace Netherlands selected a representative sample of ten European airlines and car makers, and DeSmog then analysed a year's worth of their advertising content from the Facebook Ad Library, comprising ads posted on both Facebook and Instagram for European audiences. The analysis of 864 car advertisements and 263 airline advertisements suggests that the companies are greenwashing, in other words presenting a deceptively environmentally friendly image.In Europe, more than 30 organisations are supporting a campaign to legally end fossil advertising and sponsorship in the EU, much like the long-established directive banning tobacco sponsorships and advertisements. If the campaign collects one million verified signatures in a year, the European Commission is obliged to respond to the proposal. 

Translating Abortion Disinformation: The Spanish-Language Anti-Choice Landscape

May 18, 2022

NARAL Pro-Choice America's research team is committed to exposing the anti-choice movement's use of disinformation to attack abortion access and reproductive freedom. In 2021, we began a long-term research project aiming to expand our understanding of how anti-choice disinformation disseminates online in Spanish-language spaces and how it could impact Spanish-speaking communities in the United States.Our research sought to identify influential Spanish-language activists and Facebook pages that oppose abortion and spread disinformation and determine what overlap exists between English-language and Spanish-language anti-choice groups, influencers, and messages. We also wanted to understand more about social media engagement with Spanishlanguage news coverage of abortion and expose what messages anti-choice groups and activists advertised to Spanish speakers in the United States, particularly in a political context.As we approach the 2022 midterm elections and a U.S. Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization with the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade and radically shift the landscape of abortion access across the United States, it is more important than ever to combat anti-choice messages and disinformation targeting Spanishspeaking communities.

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.

From Broken Revenue Models to Embracing an “Open” Ethos

April 8, 2022

Journalism is a form of public service, critical to all of us. Unfettered access to verified information is essential for a healthy information ecosystem – essential for democracy. Yet, journalists face threats to their physical safety and online wellbeing, broken revenue models, the closures of local news outlets, and declining trust among readers. Misinformation and disinformation campaigns in the media challenge collective notions of ground truth. They also challenge the bedrock and meaning of an open internet.Now is a critical time to support journalists in their efforts to provide verified information, investigate our shared challenges, and bring essential health, environmental, and political facts to everyone. While Creative Commons (CC) cannot address many of the challenges journalists face, we believe that principles and practices of an open internet can help journalists in some of their public interest work. From crowdsourcing information on open source platforms to using CC licenses to increase access to a particular story–applying open internet practices can help free the flow of critical information to empower journalists and citizens around the world. Before engaging, we needed to understand more about journalists' challenges.In this vein, we initiated the Ground Truth in Open Internet project to better understand journalists' needs through global survey work, focus groups, Q&A discussions and training with journalists, activists and nonprofit news sources. Below, we share methodology and findings from our research and engagement. We learned that journalists around the world face an uncertain future, as they transition away from an old model of funding journalism and face unprecedented challenges. Journalists voiced a need for training and support to harness open internet practices, but such effort must be balanced with new, working revenue models. Most news organizations' current lack of a business model allowing for (1) open access to content and (2) stability and security for content producers obstructs quality journalism. More work is needed to demonstrate how quality journalism can be funded, while keeping it accessible and open to people around the world.

Total Number of U.S. Statehouse Reporters Rises, but Fewer Are on the Beat Full Time

April 5, 2022

From voting rights and redistricting to abortion and public education, state capitols across the United States are at the epicenter of the nation's key public policy debates. This has been especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, as state capitol buildings became ground zero in the debate over mask and vaccine mandates and other pandemic policies.A new Pew Research Center study finds that the total number of reporters assigned to the 50 state capitols to inform citizens about legislative and administrative activity has increased by 11% since 2014, the last time this study was conducted. The gain comes largely from two main developments: new nonprofit news outlets that are employing statehouse reporters, and a shift to more part-time statehouse reporting.

Russian Federation: End censorship on voices against the war

March 14, 2022

Amnesty International strongly condemns the escalating attack against civil society organizations and independent media unleashed by the Russian authorities since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. The organization urges the Russian authorities to abide by their international human rights obligations and Russia's own Constitution to respect, protect and fulfill the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, including by allowing peaceful anti-war protests to go ahead unhindered; releasing all peaceful protesters and dropping the charges against them; lifting all restrictions on independent media and overturning or amending all laws that overly and arbitrarily restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.The organization is calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with and provide support to Russian civil society activists, human rights defenders and journalists who are at increased risk for expressing their opposition to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Learning from Digital Democracy Initiative Grantees

January 20, 2022

Democracy Fund's Digital Democracy Initiative (DDI) and its grantees are radically reimagining what it looks like to make platforms accountable to the American public and renew public interest media.To support this work, the team's evaluation and learning partner, ORS Impact, conducted learning conversations with DDI grantees in September and October 2021 to understand:How grantees have responded to the past yearWhat it would take to better center racial equity in DDI's strategy and in grantees' workWhere grantees see opportunities in the current momentThe report summarizes findings about these three topics within and across learning conversations and raises considerations for funders about how to better center racial equity in their grant making, how to better support their grantees, and opportunities ripe for investment. The report encourages funders to reflect on these considerations and how they might be applicable to their strategy.

Abortion Onscreen in 2021

December 14, 2021

Abortion Onscreen is a research program aimed at investigating stories of abortion on film and television and their effect on the broader social understanding of abortion. Researchers watch each television plotline and analyze each for abortion safety, the demographics of characters who seek abortions, type of abortion, reasons for obtaining abortions, and how difficult or easy the procedure is to access—comparing these trends to prior years' depictions.Depictions of abortion restrictions remain largely absent on television, a particularly egregious omission considering that the majority of patients face at least one logistical or financial obstacle to care. However, there were more depictions of how to support someone before, during, and after an abortion. Many of the portrayals onscreen offer a tangible way for viewers to consider what they would want the experience to be like for a loved one.