Right now, at one of the largest and oldest legacy newsrooms in the U.S., you can say you believe in democracy, but you can’t publicly say you believe you should have representation in Congress.
Journalism and democracy are intertwined, but if you’ve watched the way legacy and cable news have covered rising authoritarianism and attacks on voting rights in the U.S., that may no longer seem evident.
The nature of creeping authoritarianism and giving cover to anti-democratic practices is not new. For decades, mainstream newsrooms have failed to care that their staff did not reflect the communities they were supposedly writing for. At the same time, they have failed to recognize the harm caused by their “both-sides” approach to flashpoint issues like voting and reproductive rights, immigration, and workplace conditions.
But rather than flattening these issues into a catch-all term like “culture war,” it’s important journalists acknowledge them for what they are. For example, when attacks on Black Americans’ voting rights become even more targeted and explicit than they were in the past, there are clear implications for multi-racial democracy in the U.S. It is critical that journalists do not frame voting rights as a two sided issue.
How can we ensure mainstream newsrooms take attacks on multi-racial democracy seriously in their coverage? How can we push back on harmful narratives that are counter to sustaining democracy, but propped up by newsrooms? And who is building democracy and democratic values in their practice of journalism and what can we learn from them?
As part of its participation in Democracy Day, The Objective is committing to hire a correspondent to take a critical look at how democracy and journalism co-exist in the U.S., including democratic practices and anti-democratic trends, in order to hold organizations accountable for the democratic values they espouse and expand the knowledge base of organizations already trying to do good work around expanding and enshrining democratic systems of governance.
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The Objective is a nonprofit newsroom holding journalism accountable for past and current systemic biases in reporting and newsroom practices. We are written by and for those underrepresented in journalism.