The run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election illustrated how vulnerable our most venerated journalistic outlets are to a new kind of information warfare. Reporters are a targeted adversary of foreign and domestic actors who want to harm our democracy. And to cope with this threat, especially in an election year, news organizations need to prepare for another wave of false, misleading, and hacked information. Often, the information will be newsworthy. Expecting reporters to refrain from covering news goes against core principles of American journalism and the practical business drivers that shape the intensely competitive media marketplace. In these cases, the question is not whether to report but how to do so most responsibly. Our goal is to give journalists actionable guidance.
Specifically, we recommend that news organizations:
— Adopt a playbook—we present one below—of core principles and standards for reporting on newsworthy events involving false, misleading, and hacked information;
— Establish a repeatable, enterprise-wide process for implementing the playbook;
— Commit their senior leaders to ensuring the success of these initiatives across vast newsrooms siloed into distinct areas of responsibility—from political coverage to national security reporting to social media teams.