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Digital Journalism's Disappearing Public Record

In a new Tow Center report, Sharon Ringel and Angela Woodall chronicle how today's headlines, digital articles, and social media posts are in danger of disappearing forever. In the Columbia Journalism Review, they argue this lack of preservation jeopardizes a vital set of tools for combating propaganda and holding the powerful to account for actions not documented by governments or in corporate records. 

The full report—"A Public Record at Risk: The Dire State of News Archiving in the Digital Age"—found that among the 21 news organizations in the study, 19 were not taking any protective steps at all to archive their web output. (The remaining two outlets were not taking steps to ensure their archive would outlast inevitable changes in technology.) In addition to the failure to archive published stories from their own websites, none of the news organizations interviewed were systematically preserving their social media publications, including tweets and posts to Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platform. 
Islamophobia on the Campaign Trail
A new poll surveying candidates in the 2018 midterms found Islamophobic attitudes and threats directed at American Muslims entering the public arena, particularly for candidates who are women. The research, which also drew on tens of thousands of tweets, was presented in Foreign Policy by Lawrence Pintak, Brian J. Bowe, and Tow's own Jonathan Albright. The group found female candidates were targeted about twice as often as men and those who wore a hijab, like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), were particularly singled out for hate.
And the (Tech) Beat Goes On
Tricky is a podcast about the future of journalism co-hosted by Tow's founding director Emily Bell and the New School's Heather Chaplin. On the latest episode: In her essay “The Digital Maginot Line”, Mozilla fellow and disinformation expert Renée DiResta argues that perpetrators of information warfare have shifted from “targeting infrastructure to targeting the minds of civilians.” In this week’s episode of Tricky, Renée joins Heather and Emily to talk about how governments and platforms are not doing enough to address this shift.
In The Columbia Journalism Review
Do technology companies care about journalism?
by Emily Bell
No company has done more to fund and support journalism over the past decade than Google but Bell questions whether editorial independence and transparency in journalism can coexist with the direct patronage system on offer. After all, tech companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google do things that journalists should be investigating, not profiting from.

What is credibility made of?
by Aviv Ovadya
A wide variety of approaches can be used to evaluate credibility—including looking for factual inaccuracies, deceptive tactics, or underhanded advertising policies. Or you might be tempted to think "I know it when I see it." Ovadya, a former Knight News Innovation Fellow at the Tow Center, proposes a systematic approach to credibility as a way of determining what's worthy of trust.

Terrorism bred online requires anticipatory, not reactionary coverage
by Emily Bell
In the wake of the acts of terror in New Zealand, Bell describes journalism's panopticon problem: the amount of information journalists and others can now “see” outweighs what we could and should report. 
In the News and At Large
The massacre in New Zealand marked the third time that Facebook has been used to broadcast murder. In The Washington Post, Jonathan Albright was asked to explain how some of America's biggest tech companies came to have a role in publicizing graphic violence.

For The Daily Beast, Sam Thielman considers the spectacle of Mark Zuckerberg announcing another pivot to privacy—as if Facebook hasn’t been caught lying about protecting customer data over and over again.

Nieman Lab covered the Tow Center's new report on digital archiving and featured some choice direct quotes from the report's interviews.

Emily Bell and Jonathan Albright were both featured in The Guardian's analysis of Facebook after Cambridge Analytica. Bell characterized Zuckerberg's recent privacy treatise as "the nightmarish college application essay of an accomplished sociopath" and Albright noted the technical challenges to breaking up Facebook once their messaging platforms are integrated—and guessed that's exactly why Facebook is moving so quickly to combine them. 
Research and Analysis of Note
  • Facebook's efforts to shift the conversation about regulation toward its current business model continue: The company published a blog post by Mark Zuckerberg laying out the company's priorities for legislative action on their turf, which at this point seems to be unstoppable.
  • Sean Phelan and Leon A. Salter discuss the class divisions in reporting on politics in New Zealand in the most recent issue of Journalism. The pair dissect the circumstances around the ouster of Green Party leader Metiria Turei, whose conduct during her time on state welfare became a hotly debated topic after she proposed raising welfare payments by 20%. Supporters said the increase was long overdue and Turei's actions—she had withheld details on her welfare claim—were necessary precisely because the country's system needed the changes she now championed; detractors said her dishonesty meant she couldn't be trusted. Journalists tried to stay out of it by claiming to simply be performing their function, but the online public, especially those who supported Turei, denied them that favorite fig leaf.
  • The Pew Research Center published a survey describing where Americans get local news and how they rate its performance. In the nationally representative survey, researchers wrote that "[a]n overwhelming majority of adults say it is at least somewhat important for journalists to understand their community’s history (85%) and to be personally engaged with their local area (81%), and at least four-in-ten deem each very important. Less consensus exists, however, on whether the local news media clear this bar."
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