I have an op-ed in VIEWdigital this week, which focuses on how to future-proof journalism after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Drawing on my testimony to a hearing organised by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, my recommendations on how to improve media coverage of crises include:
1) Impose harsher penalties on social media companies for failing to remove misinformation and disinformation from their sites.
These could range from punitive fines to more radical measures such as recognising social media companies as media publishers.
2) Prioritise source criticism over objectivity in journalism.
False balance approaches that amplify inaccurate, unverified claims should be avoided. This approach should be implemented alongside existing factchecking initiatives (e.g. Full Fact) to counteract misinformation and disinformation during crises.
3) Protect public service media from government interference.
It is imperative that the editorial independence of these organisations is maintained in the future.
4) Provide financial support to the hyperlocal sector
Hyperlocal news sites should be given financial support from governments in order to reduce their reliance on digital advertising. For instance, the National Union of Journalists News Recovery Plan proposes that tax credits and interest free loans be provided to these outlets in order to ensure their sustainability.
5) Promote solutions journalism as a counterpoint to ‘snackable’ news coverage.
While there remains a need for more empirical evidence showing its impact on behaviour, solutions journalism is a corollary for encouraging citizens to think of collective rather than individual interests during these incidents.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but it would be a start. As I argued previously, we should all do what we can to support local journalists, the ‘first responders’ during crises like the pandemic.