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ASU Cronkite School initiative receives gift from craigslist founder

Support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies will help fight misinformation, improve journalistic corrections


The Cronkite School received support from the organization of craigslist founder Craig Newmark to fight misinformation and improve journalistic corrections. Photo by Bleacher+Everard Photography

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August 16, 2019

Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication announced a $200,000 gift from Craig Newmark Philanthropies to support a project that will combat misinformation by improving the reach and effectiveness of journalistic corrections. 

The initiative will be run by the school’s News Co/Lab, which aims to help the public find new ways of understanding and engaging with news. The lab will partner with researchers, journalists and technologists on the project. Among them are three newsrooms of the McClatchy media company, including The Kansas City Star, and Brendan Nyhan, professor of government at Dartmouth College, who has done groundbreaking research on misinformation and journalism.

The volume and rate at which information is shared on social media allows misinformation to proliferate online. At the same time, it is increasingly difficult for news consumers to identify trustworthy information. In 2018, the News Co/Lab and the University of Texas Center for Media Engagement conducted a series of surveys that were designed to help journalism organizations understand what their communities know about, think about and want from the news. Nearly 40 percent of participants had trouble spotting a fake headline. 

In the face of these challenges, getting high volumes of trustworthy news in front of online readers and viewers is critical. One goal of the corrections project is to help accurate and up-to-date information stand out in the busy stream of social media posts.

“We’d all prefer that every piece of journalism be perfectly accurate when it’s published or broadcast, but journalists, being human, make mistakes,’’ said Dan Gillmor, co-founder of the News Co/Lab. “Digital design has made it much easier to incorporate corrections into a live story, a big improvement on 20th-century methods. But we can do even better in a world where so much news spreads fast via social media.”

This News Co/Lab initiative will help to send corrections down the same pathways that their original errors traveled. A key element of this work, emerging from an experiment the News Co/Lab and McClatchy ran earlier this year, will be to design and deploy a web-based tool that streamlines the process for reaching news consumers on social media platforms. This will allow news organizations to provide the people who encounter a story error with the corrected information, helping to repair some of the damage that its misinformation caused. Ultimately, the effort will help to increase trust in high-quality journalism. 

“When many reporters and news organizations realize that they have published false information, they are quick to fix that error, but on an impact level, that correction matters only as much as the number of people who see it,” said Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. “This effort of the News Co/Lab is about getting journalistic corrections in front of a lot of people as quickly and as publicly as possible, and I am quite proud to back such a needed effort.”

“The generous support of Craig Newmark Philanthropies will help us to make corrections a more powerful tool in the arsenal for the fight against misinformation,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School. “Fixing an error is just the beginning. To help repair the damage that misinformation causes, we need to develop tools that can help journalistic corrections reach people on a wide scale.”

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