How to cover QAnon, what we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and what we could do better next time

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Edited by Marco Nurra

Who’s the largest driver of the ‘infodemic’? Trump, a new study finds. That is the conclusion of researchers at Cornell University who analyzed 38 million articles about the pandemic in English-language media around the world. Mentions of Mr. Trump made up nearly 38 percent of the overall “misinformation conversation,” making the president the largest driver of the “infodemic” — falsehoods involving the pandemic. The study, released Thursday, is the first comprehensive examination of coronavirus misinformation in traditional and online media.

The questions we need to ask before the next infodemic. What could we do better next time? First Draft’s head of policy and impact, Tommy Shane, explores what questions we need to ask to provide better information during the next pandemic. First Draft has also analyzed 9,722 fact checks to tell the story of pandemic misinformation through the work of those fighting it.

How do I cover COVID-19? Frequently asked questions for CPJ’s safety experts. The questions below provide a snapshot of the safety concerns that journalists encounter each day covering the pandemic and reporting amid the threat of infection. The answers to the questions come from CPJ’s publicly available safety guidance, including the COVID-19 safety advisory. CPJ published the first version of the advisory in February 2020, and has updated it regularly since then, providing safety information to journalists as the COVID-19 pandemic develops. 

The risky business of environmental journalism. In the last decade, an ever growing number of journalists reporting on environmental issues have been assaulted, imprisoned or killed. The practical and psychological consequences of these attacks are profound.

‘Resist until the end’: On the ground with Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy newspaper (video). When the China’s controversial national security law came into force three months ago, Apple Daily was raided by police: journalists’ desks were searched and its founder was taken away in handcuffs. But journalists at the paper are still working, fighting to tell the people of Hong Kong’s story. “The national security law brought brutality to the streets of the city I love. Yet I believe we can regain our freedom,” wrote Nathan Law, a politician and activist from Hong Kong, currently in exile in London.

Crumbling case against Julian Assange shows weakness of “hacking” charges related to whistleblowing. New testimony from the third week of Assange’s extradition trial makes it increasingly clear that this hacking charge is incredibly flimsy. The alleged hacking not only didn’t happen, according to expert testimony at Manning’s court martial hearing in 2013 and again at Assange’s extradition trial last week, but it also couldn’t have happened.

In the 2020 US election, journalists need an agenda: defending democracy. “Those who are covering it need to urgently figure out what they are for, or they will end up as the enablers of lies and misinformation – as they were in 2016,” writes Jay Rosen.

How civil society can combat misinformation and hate speech without making it worse. “In the battle to combat misinformation, researchers have offered clear advice for how journalists should cover and debunk it, but we have very provided little guidance for how civil society should counter media manipulation and disinformation campaigns. The lack of attention to civil society responses is a major gap in the research and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the guidance for journalists does not translate easily to civil society. At this time, we need all hands on deck to ensure a free and fair election. In this document, I explore a set of potential strategies to be used specifically by civil society organizations (CSOs) to mitigate misinformation,” writes Joan Donovan.

We need to talk about talking about QAnon. “So far, news coverage has focused on describing the phenomenon, debunking its most outrageous claims, and discussing its real-world consequences. The problem is, even after all the explainers, debunks, and stakes-laying, QAnon hasn’t receded in popularity—it’s exploded. Not talking about it is no longer an option, so we need to find a way to talk about it better. That means zeroing in on the movement’s social and technological causes to explain what’s happening for people who don’t believe in QAnon, offer an alternative explanation for those who do, and point toward broader, structural solutions,” writes Whitney Phillips.

Dean Baquet on the Trump tax investigation. The New York Times has examined decades of President Trump’s financial records, assembling the most comprehensive picture yet of his business dealings. “We are publishing this report because we believe citizens should understand as much as possible about their leaders and representatives — their priorities, their experiences and also their finances. Every president since the mid-1970s has made his tax information public. The tradition ensures that an official with the power to shake markets and change policy does not seek to benefit financially from his actions.”

Google announces $1 billion partnership program with news publishers. “This financial commitment—our biggest to date—will pay publishers to create and curate high-quality content for a different kind of online news experience. Google News Showcase is a new product that will benefit both publishers and readers: It features the editorial curation of award-winning newsrooms to give readers more insight on the stories that matter, and in the process, helps publishers develop deeper relationships with their audiences.”