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Elections, conspiracy theories and the news: How to report on QAnon
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It’s a darkness that has crept across the digital world into the offline one – from obscure fan-fiction driven forums, to YouTube and Facebook and then infamously into the halls of power.
Now QAnon, a big tent conspiracy theory movement that emerged around 2017, is a feature of modern American politics. Many politicians, law enforcers and journalists didn’t see QAnon coming.
Vice News’ David Gilbert, who has been tracking and reporting on the movement for years, does not expect QAnon to disappear anytime soon.
“We realised pretty early on that this movement had gained support from major national figures and that it had infected large parts of the US population,” he told Future News’ sister YouTube channel, Tech, Power & Media.
As to how far QAnon has spread into the American political psyche, a 2020 poll from Pew Research found that 20% of all Americans who had read about the movement thought it was a good thing.
As the election campaign heading into the 2024 White House vote heats up and amid reports that Donald Trump could return to Facebook and Twitter, Tech, Power & Media spoke to David about:
The unique challenges of reporting on QAnon
How the mainstream media deals with QAnon
How journalists should report on Trump
The impact of online conspiracy theories on real life
How David keeps his mental health in check
What he’s focusing on in 2023 and ahead of the 2024 vote
The full interview can be found here.
Elsewhere in Misinformation Land 🖥️: Semafor co-founder Ben Smith has taken the story of Joan Donovan leaving Harvard University’s Kennedy School forward. Donovan had become one of America’s most recognisable misinformation and disinformation experts after appearing on major news and talk shows in the run-up to and following the 2016 US elections. Her Technology and Social Change project will now be reportedly closed in 2024.
The News at 5pm 🕒: In a broadcast coup for The Spectator, former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss was interviewed by the outlet’s political editor, Katy Balls, in a video which aired at 5pm (GMT) yesterday.
Truss had penned and published a 4,000-word essay in The Sunday Telegraph over the weekend reflecting on her short time in Number 10 (just 44 days) and sudden downfall.
The Spectator, a sister title to The Telegraph, has seen its YouTube channel grow to an impressive 25m views and 180,000 subscribers. The ‘Week in 60 Minutes’ show provides a popular content backbone to Spectator TV under broadcast editor Cindy Yu.
Not to be outdone at 5pm was Politico UK, which published its first evening newsletter, Playbook PM, under the editorship of Emilio Casalicchio. In an already crowded market (Politics Home and The Spectator also run evening newsletters), why should Westminster watchers subscribe?
“It’s going to be an essential round-up of the day in Westminster in true playbook style: informative, chatty and fun with scoops and gossip,” Emilio told Future News. “Also, we're planning to include the [House of] Commons’ café lunch menus for the following day each afternoon.”
It goes to show that just like Boris Johnson you can really have your cake and eat it after all, and there’s a lot of welcome cake going around at Politico UK with the appointment of Rose Prince as London Playbook editor and a string of new reporters joining the outlet, including Oscar Williams, Noah Keate and Tom Bristow.
📺 Media and Tech Questions I’m Thinking About
What are the known ‘unknowables’ in media and tech?
The BBC has unveiled a big presenter shake-up, so where will all the former presenters end up?
As Bloomberg looks for an AI reporter, does the industry deserve its own beat in the national and international media?
Can ‘watch parties’ significantly boost the fortunes of on-demand TV?
How popular will ‘de-influencing’ become?
Can The Express and The Mirror make it in America?
How will media outlets cover The Superbowl this weekend?
🎙️ Podcasts I’m Listening To
The Internet History Podcast (a real hidden gem)
How I Built This on Miles Copeland and I.R.S Records