End-of year-roundups are popping up all over right now. Our advice is to skip the 100th “best gifts” list that landed in your mailbox--instead enjoy NiemanLab’s latest set of predictions for the year ahead in journalism. The annual feature interviews numerous people in the world of journalism, technology, and publishing about what they think the new year will bring. This time round, news accuracy, ways of ensuring it, and predications about how the public will react to disinformation in 2019 are frequently raised topics.
The whole list can be found here; below are a few highlights that may be of particular interest to librarians.
Mike Caulfield’s name may already be familiar to readers of this blog; in the past, we’ve looked at his writing on how and why teaching students to research like journalists is a good idea. For NeimanLabs’ end of year list, he wrote “Ditch the Media Literacy Cynicism and Get to Work.” The piece is encouraging, as Caulfield urges readers to abandon the idea that people won’t change their minds no matter what. “We find lack of skills to be a far greater driver of mistakes than worldview," says Caulfield, continuing, “ when students are taught basic vetting skills we find little discernible effect of tribalism at all.” (“We” here means educators.
Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, also weighs in. His post is called “The End of ‘Loudspeakers for Liars,’” and also sounds a positive note—the idea that in the coming year, known liars and fraudsters will get a reduced media platform. Newmark cites research showing that repetition unfortunately imparts a patina of truth, and he predicts two ways in which veracity will be more emphasized going forward. The “truth sandwich” comes first; as Newmark explains, this means that where an article quotes or paraphrases a lie, it will be preceded by the truth and followed by a fact check. Secondly, says Newmark, in 2019 “we’ll also see news organizations and social media platforms clarify that deception and disinformation, like fraud, are unethical, and that these things violate their terms of service.”
My own prediction: social media controls that are tailored toward particular user groups—a disturbing option, at least if it is unknown to users and/or can’t be opted into or out of. In terms of journalism, it could mean that certain stories will be less accessible to certain groups. For a model of what this could look like, see this Guardian article on WhatsApp’s new policies for users in India: in that country, a user will only be able to forward a given message to a maximum of five chats at a time, and users will be alerted when a message didn’t originate with the person sending it. They will also be urged to check the content of what they are forwarding for truthfulness. WhatsApp’s own explanation of the change can be found here.