April 29, 2021
/ by Rocky Parker
See the original post on Beyond Bylines.
World Press Freedom Day is coming up on May 3. This year’s theme is “Information as a Public Good.”
According to UNESCO, WPFD 2021 will highlight three topics:
Journalists are responsible for keeping the public informed so they can participate in democratic life. They also hold public officials accountable. Unfortunately, a recent study found some Americans do not support these journalistic values. The study from the Media Insight Project found that “when journalists say they are just doing their jobs, the problem is many people harbor doubts about what the job should be.”
The major issues of 2020 – the COVID-19 pandemic, racial reckonings across industries, and a contentious presidential election – have carried over into 2021, and with them comes a continuing wave of attacks on the press.
Let’s look at the current state of press freedom and how journalists can encourage their readers to support the industry.
Cision surveyed nearly 3,000 journalists in 15 countries for our 2021 State of the Media survey.
Among the takeaways:
The 2021 World Press Freedom Index seems to be confirming that last bullet point. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), “The first 100 days of Joseph R. Biden’s presidency saw healthy improvements to government accountability and transparency.”
In the 2021 index, the U.S. moved up one spot to #44. That small improvement was despite a particularly troubling year during former President Trump’s final year in office. In 2020, there were nearly 400 journalists assaulted and more than 130 detained – unprecedented numbers, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.
Despite the small improvement, there’s still a long way to go. RSF explains, “As with any patient, however, while the most obvious symptoms of an ailing democracy may have cleared up, many chronic, underlying conditions — from the disappearance of local news to the ongoing and widespread distrust of mainstream media — remain.”
And those “symptoms” are showing up around the world. In addition to journalists being arrested (and charged with crimes) in the U.S., a “censorship virus” is spreading beyond China (ranked fourth to last on this year’s index). Recent months have also seen crackdowns on press freedom in Myanmar, Malaysia, and the Netherlands, to name just a few.
In her newsletter from mid-March, Mandy Hofmockel spoke with Ross Maghielse, the director of digital programming and audience development at The Philadelphia Inquirer. Maghielse said, “Journalism is a small industry, figuratively and increasingly literally. I view our biggest competition as indifference to what we do, not somebody else doing it well.”
Don’t be indifferent.
As our own team said in a Press Freedom Day post several years ago, “While the media landscape is complex, the right to a free press should be simple.”
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