By Ishaan Jhaveri

At the Save America Rally on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C., a white flag printed with a bright green pine tree, reading the words, “An Appeal to Heaven,” flew alongside popular right-wing flags. In the crowds of thousands, flags such the yellow Gadsden (“Don’t Tread on Me”) and the Revolutionary War-era Betsy Ross flag (a symbol that has been used in racist contexts) stood out amidst scores of Trump 2020 and traditional American flags.

Source: Nina Berman

But the Pine Tree flag had particular significance at the Capitol riots. According to the book, “The American Flag: An Encyclopedia of the…

By Sara Sheridan

In early January, in collaboration with the Tow Center, the Arizona Daily Star’s digital-only, community news vertical #ThisIsTucson released a report outlining the work that went into creating its membership program. The program, which launched right as the coronavirus pandemic decimated local news across the country, has been a unique success story from a year rife with cutbacks, closures and crises. The full report can be found here. We talked with the two journalists who spearheaded the project at the Star and who authored the report, Irene McKisson and Becky Pallack, about what it was like to…

By Sara Sheridan

Last week, the world watched as a violent mob of protestors overtook law enforcement and attempted to stop the certification of votes for the incoming President of the United States, Joseph R. Biden Jr. The Constitutionally mandated ceremony is usually an uneventful one. Instead, thousands of President Trump’s supporters — amped up by a speech he gave early Wednesday morning in which he continued to spread baseless allegations of voter fraud and electioneering — descended upon the Capitol.

The mob rushed through the halls as Members of Congress and journalists were whisked into hiding by an ill-equipped…

By Ishaan Jhaveri

On October 24, a Trump rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, featured a very noticeable backdrop: flying prominently behind the President as he addressed thousands of supporters was not the American flag, but the black, white and blue “Thin Blue Line” flag, a symbol of the pro-police Blue Lives Matter movement.

Trump waving at supporters at a campaign rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin on October 24th, 2020 (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

According to the Marshall Project, “Those who fly the flag have said it stands for solidarity and professional pride within a dangerous, difficult profession and a…

By Sara Sheridan

Much has been written about President Trump’s open contempt for journalism. According to a recent report from the Committee to Protect Journalists, “Trump has habitually attacked the news media in rallies, responses to reporters’ questions, and many hundreds of tweets. He has repeatedly called the press ‘fake news,’ ‘the enemy of the people,’ ‘dishonest,’ ‘corrupt,’ ‘low life reporters,’ ‘bad people,’ ‘human scum’ and ‘some of the worst human beings you’ll ever meet.’”

Trump’s relationship to the media seems to consist of a series of alliances and rivalries, with common characters such as Fox News, CNN, and the…

By Ishaan Jhaveri and Sara Sheridan


In early July, Harper’s Magazine published “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” a statement signed by 152 prominent authors decrying a “stifling” intellectual atmosphere and advocating for “the free exchange of information and ideas.” While the Harper’s letter did not mention any examples of the type of speech suppression it condemned, it came after a series of media industry controversies, most notably the resignation of a top New York Times editor over an op-ed advocating for military force on protesters. …

By Susan E. McGregor

When photojournalist Andrea Bruce arrived at the “Trump Parade” in New Bern, North Carolina on June 13th, she didn’t quite know what to expect. A trip down the rabbit hole of related Facebook pages had led her to information about the event, where she encountered Trump supporters sailing their yachts along the coastline and being cheered on by other supporters from the shore.

As she photographed and interviewed the participants on land, Bruce kept seeing the same skull graphic, over and over again, on attendees’ hats and T-shirts. Though the rendering wasn’t immediately familiar to her…

By Andrea Wenzel and Jacob L. Nelson

A growing number of journalists have begun experimenting with ways of listening to and developing relationships with their audiences and broader communities in an attempt to build trust not just in their own organizations, but in news media writ large. This concept of “engaged journalism” comprises many definitions (though we find this one by Lindsay Green-Barber to be helpful), and, consequently, many practices. …

Mural by the meme artist XVALA covering graffiti artist Banksy’s Steve Jobs Mural in Calais, France | March 2019 | Photo: Wikimedia Commons, used under CC BY-SA 4.0

By Susan McGregor

Decades before the dawn of the consumer internet, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” in his popular 1976 book The Selfish Gene. As Dawkins conceived it, a “meme” was essentially anything — from clothing styles to melodies — that was replicated across human groups without relying on actual genetic information. While present throughout human history, this newly-minted term for these “units of cultural information” captured the imagination of academics in a variety of disciplines. …

By Sam Thielman

The state of the Chinese internet is a source of both constant fascination and intense frustration to American journalists used to the West’s hectic information flow. On the one hand, China’s vast array of cultures and and its unique economic landscape are of tremendous interest; on the other, information about Chinese national affairs arrives in the West mediated in one of two ways: by a strict information-control regime operated by the country’s ruling party, or by foreign reporting that may not understand its many nuances.

On February 1, The Tow Center for Digital Journalism hosted a…

Tow Center

Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

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