Democracy and social progress die without science and fact-based knowledge. Science and facts are the foundational basis for rational and logical disputation and the possibility of reaching some truths. Fake news, on the other hand, is a calculated assault on democratic freedoms.
For social media and search engines, the law is back in town. Prompted by privacy invasions, the spread of misinformation, a crisis in news funding and potential interference in elections, regulators in several countries now propose a range of interventions to curb the power of digital platforms.
This article will be no help whatsoever to Britain’s crumbling local newspaper industry. After 12 years researching the provincial press at its peak period, the second half of the 19th century, I have no answers for today’s business in crisis. In 2018, the fourth largest regional newspaper group in Britain, Johnston Press, recently went bust (and was then “rescued” by a US asset fund). A quarter of the country’s local papers have closed in the last ten years. Jobs have been cut, print sales tumble, and profits dwindle (although many local papers still make money). Fewer reporters staffing local papers mean fewer original stories, which makes the papers less attractive to readers, which accelerates the decline. The industry itself blames internet advertising, and competition from Facebook and Google. Others blame local newspaper management, not known for its dynamism or strategic ...
Late one evening in March, I was sat in the JFK Forum at Harvard’s Kennedy School, surrounded by dozens of journalists and academics. We were watching Nina Martin and Renee Montagne, from NPR and ProPublica, collect their Goldsmith investigative reporting award for “Lost Mothers,” a harrowing and important piece of work exploring the shocking number of American women who die in childbirth every year. As they were being given a standing ovation, I finally formulated the question I’ve been struggling with lately: With this kind of brilliant and high-quality journalism being pursued around the world every day, why is it that the news industry is steadily shrinking?