The plague of fake news over the last few years came to a head in 2016, between Brexit and the US Presidential Election. Since Trump’s victory in November, many Americans have been decrying fake news and looking for ways to improve the situation. And they’re not alone.
According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, “less than 50 percent of the populations in two-thirds of the 28 nations surveyed trust mainstream businesses, government, media, and organizations to do what is right. Media institutions, specifically, are distrusted in 82 percent of the countries.” That’s not a good sign for the state of journalism.
That’s why the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm launched by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has dedicated $114 million over the next three years to “strengthening independent media and investigative journalism, combating misinformation and hate speech, and enabling citizens to better engage with government entities.” The money will support projects around the world, especially nonprofit news organizations and journalistic watchdogs.
Joined by a number of supporters and partners, the initiative has already awarded $4.5 million to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, as well as undisclosed sums to Alianza Latinoamaericana para la Technología Cívica and the Anti-Defamation League. The independent News Integrity Initiative, run by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism was recently awarded $14 million. That group is focused on “helping individuals make informed judgements about the news they read and share online.”
It appears that nonprofit news initiatives may be the solution to fake news, since the problem is often caused by advertisers. Even more traditional news organizations, strapped for cash, have seen eroding ethical standards as traditional print journalism struggles to remain relevant in the digital age and retain advertising revenue. By removing the need for advertisers, journalists could remain independent of the profit motive, allowing them to report the news, without having to report to shareholders.