Thanks to advances in technology, information is more widely available and more quickly available than ever before.
That’s mostly a good thing, except misinformation is also more widely available and more quickly available than ever before.
Politicians have been keen to blame the information technology giants, Facebook, Google and Twitter. Democrats want to punish the firms for spreading misinformation, and Republicans worry that the companies are reacting to the political threat by stifling conservative voices. They are both right.
A better option might be to boost the channels that provide reliable, responsible and accurate information.
That is the approach of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, a bipartisan measure introduced in Congress. It would provide temporary tax credits to individuals who subscribe to newspapers, companies who advertise in local media, and media firms that hire additional journalists.
We obviously bring some bias to the issue, because The Times-Picayune and The Advocate would benefit from that favorable tax treatment, as would our subscribers and advertisers. Our print and digital publications are doing fine, and we have loyal print subscribers and advertisers in three of Louisiana’s biggest markets — New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette — plus a statewide audience online.
The more needy beneficiaries would be the smaller communities in Louisiana, which are in danger of becoming news deserts as goliaths like Facebook and Google sponge up the ad dollars that used to sustain local news coverage.
The battle between fact and misinformation is as old as the spoken word, but technology has enabled lies to spread around the state and around the planet with lightning speed.
The Local Journalism Sustainability Act won’t vanquish toxic misinformation, but it will put truth on a stronger footing.