Last month, we headed down to Gainesville, Fla., for the annual Frank gathering of people who use communications to drive social change. This year, the conference felt more necessary than ever. Many of us in the social-change sector are looking for answers to how we continue our work in a culture that not only rejects facts and science, but one that also—thanks to sophisticated social media algorithms that tailor content specifically to our interests and the echo chambers that result—seemingly cannot distinguish between real information, unintentional misinformation and intentional disinformation.
Last week, as Donald J. Trump was being inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States in Washington, D.C., festival-goers in Park City, Utah, were preparing for premieres, parties and protests at the Sundance Film Festival. The MIF staff, its board of directors and various colleagues were focusing on how to move forward with effective, engaging storytelling, especially as it pertains to the health of our planet.
Inauguration day is just around the corner, and many funders and journalists are increasingly concerned about the role media play in a free and democratic society. The field is moving quickly to understand the impact of “fake news,” propaganda, hoaxes and biased coverage—both in how they skew information relating to the issues funders care about, and in how they contribute to undermining journalism and democracy.