Climate coverage, health disinformation, and right-wing extremism

Our personal weekly selection about journalism and innovation.

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Edited by Marco Nurra


Climate coverage that engages audiences without overwhelming them. Using infrared photography, virtual reality, and other reporting techniques to make visible the unseen causes of the climate crisis. We’ll tackle this topic at #ijf20: “How to cover climate change so audiences engage”

Disinformation about the polio vaccine in Pakistan has had a serious impact on polio eradication efforts. Pakistan is one of just two countries where polio is still endemic (Afghanistan is the other). The global initiative to eradicate polio in Pakistan has experienced varying degrees of success, but has been complicated by ongoing distrust in the motives of global health authorities and recent spikes in polio-related misinformation on social media. We’ll tackle this topic at #ijf20: “Can health fact-checking actually work?”

Hoaxes about the coronavirus are now trying to prove human extermination. Since Feb. 10, when the World Health Organization announced that more than 1,000 people had died from the 2019 coronavirus, fact-checkers started to receive a new wave of misinformation — tons of posts, photos and videos “showing” how sick people were being exterminated. The kind of content that could represent supreme horror for humanity— if it were not completely false. We’ll tackle this topic at #ijf20: “Fact-checking public health epidemics: an interactive workshop to understand COVID-19”

Germany and right-wing extremism: The new dimension of terror. A gunman killed nine people and injured at least four in two shisha bars in the city of Hanau, not far from Frankfurt. He then went home where he killed his mother before killing himself. He left behind a letter and video in which he claimed responsibility. The attack is a clear indication: Far-right terrorism is on the rise in Germany. We’ll tackle this topic at #ijf20: “From the margins to the mainstream: far right and populist politics today”

Julian Assange: Australian MPs call on UK to block US extradition. Boris Johnson should block attempts to extradite Julian Assange to the US, say two Australian MPs who visited the Wikileaks founder in prison, describing him afterwards as “a man under enormous pressure” and whose health and mental health had deteriorated.

Forget fake news: Why we’re wrong about nearly everything. Deliberate disinformation and social media are just part of it, but our chronic sense of misperception has no one source. It’s based on what we’re told, but also how we think. For example, Americans think that 33 percent of their population are immigrants, when the reality is around 14 percent—and that 17 percent of the population are Muslim, when it’s around 1 percent. “One of our most important biases is our natural focus on negative information,” writes Bobby Duffy.

How social network sites and other online intermediaries increase exposure to news. New evidence seems to suggest people access more diverse news on platforms like Google or Facebook.

There are lots of ways to combat misinformation. Here are some creative ones from across three continents. There are many studies on misinformation and ways to combat it, but they’re often focused on traditional reporters and editors. In four new reports published this week, Full Fact partnered with Africa Check and Argentina’s Chequeado analyzed academic research and fact-checking experiments in the three regions, and recommends how members of the public sector (politicians, health officials, educators, etc.) can contribute to correcting and limiting the spread of bad information. Will Moy, chief executive of Full Fact, Retha Langa, deputy director of Africa Check, and Laura Zommer, editor-in-chief of Chequeado, will be #ijf20 speakers

Twitter confirms it is testing bright labels beneath lies and misinfo posted by politicians and public figures, and points-based “community badges” for users. “We’re exploring a number of ways to address misinformation and provide more context for tweets on Twitter,” a spokesperson said. “Misinformation is a critical issue and we will be testing many different ways to address it.”

How to build a good reader revenue model: lessons from Spain and the UK. As Spanish legacy newspapers embrace digital subscriptions, Journalist Fellow at the Reuters Institute Eduardo Suárez looks at how they can succeed. Eduardo Suárez will moderate a panel on this topic at #ijf20: “How to build a successful reader revenue strategy in 2020”


Waiting for #ijf20


Every week, one recommendation from the extensive programme of the next edition of the International Journalism Festival.  

The Brazil of Bolsonaro: attack on independent media

Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency in Brazil has seen escalating attacks on journalists in person and on freedom of information more generally. Threats, intimidation, defamation campaigns, lawsuits – often brought directly by the president or his family. Among the targets, two leading women protagonists of Brazilian journalism.
Daniela Pinheiro, former editor of the influential weekly Época, the first woman in her country to edit a periodical, resigned in September 2019 together with other colleagues after a campaign against her led by the president’s family after Época published a profile of the president’s daughter-in-law.
Patrícia Campos Mello, who revealed the illegal mass use of WhatsApp messages during the 2018 presidential election that Bolsonaro won, was taken to court by Bolsonaro to reveal the sources of her investigation. Patricia won the case and did not have to reveal her sources but she and her family have been the target of an intimidation campaign. See the 12 February 2020 CPJ article entitled Brazilian journalist Patrícia Campos Mello faces online harassment campaign for details of the latest episode.
How do you defend yourself when hatred is instigated from the very top of your country? What lessons – for better or for worse – can the Brazilian experience provide as a once-healthy democracy teeters on the brink of a slide into authoritarianism?
Daniela and Patricia will be interviewed by Barbara Serra.

(Photo: AJ Contrast)