Susan Benkelman

Susan is the Director of Accountability Journalism at API.

Susan joined API in November 2018 to lead its project to improve and expand accountability journalism. Before joining API, Susan worked for five years as a news editor in the Washington bureau of the Wall Street Journal. Previously she was the editorial director at CQ-Roll Call, holding the top newsroom job at the company formed by the merger of Roll Call and Congressional Quarterly, where she spent 15 years as an editor. Previously, Susan was been a reporter at Newsday in Washington, New York and Moscow, and before that was in the Washington and Lansing bureaus for the Detroit News. Originally from Michigan, she holds a degree in Journalism from Michigan State University.

Factually: Anti-vaxxers are adopting new tactics

In May, Instagram announced that it would block hashtags that promote “verifiably false” information about vaccines. The move came after similar efforts from other social media platforms to restrict vaccine misinformation. But anti-vaxxers have developed some clever workarounds to Instagram’s restrictions. Coda Story reported Dec. 6 that anti-vaxxers have started using coded hashtags to continue promoting the false belief that vaccines […]

The Sound of Silence: Strategic Amplification

Once a news organization identifies something as false, the question becomes how to cover it, if at all. The instinct of most news people when they encounter a falsehood is to correct it. The underlying principle here, ingrained in newsroom professionals over time, is to dispel inaccurate information before it spreads too far, whether that […]

A Sea of Falsehoods

The public today must navigate a news ecosystem contaminated with false information. Some of it is spread without malicious intent, which is generally called misinformation. Some of it is designed to mislead or disrupt, which is known as disinformation. And some is aimed at swaying public opinion or beliefs by distorting the facts, which is […]

‘Enemy of the People’

In his more than two decades in journalism, Joel Christopher had never seen anything like it. When he arrived at the Louisville Courier Journal as executive editor in late 2016, he found that his paper was frequently on the receiving end of abuse from Kentucky’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin. A newcomer to politics, Bevin came […]
Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

Getting it Right: Strategies for truth-telling in a time of misinformation and polarization

There was a time when being a journalist meant pursuing a story by reporting the available information from as many sources as possible, writing the piece, and getting it published in print and online. How quaint that now seems. Today’s media environment requires reporters and editors to be detectives of misinformation, and then be prepared […]

Contending with Polarized Audiences

Most news organizations aspire to a goal of delivering quality information that can promote healthy dialogue among members of their communities. Some succeed better than others. But it’s more challenging to do this in a society cleaved by partisan polarization, culture wars, foreign campaigns to use technology platforms to divide us, and more. There is […]

Conclusion: A Challenge for Challenging Times

Each of the challenges addressed in this report – misinformation, attempts to manipulate journalists, polarized audiences and disparagement of journalists by politicians – is a discrete problem with its own unique causes and solutions. But because they all relate to and reinforce one another, it is essential for news leaders seeking to respond to look […]

Factually: Why ‘facts won’t save us’

Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University, wrote a piece for Columbia Journalism Review saying that disinformation, like environmental pollution, calls for an ecological solution. “Facts won’t save us,” she wrote. Phillips is the author of two books as well as an important paper on disinformation amplification for Data & Society. Now she’s […]

Factually: Why the Tories’ fact-check stunt matters

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery. But not in this case. The move by the U.K. Conservative Party’s press office to make its Twitter account look like a real fact-checking site holds implications for fact-checkers’ credibility and presents social media companies with a new test of how to respond to such ploys. There […]

Factually: Facebook defines ‘politician,’ but will it solve the problem? 

Facebook’s policy of not subjecting politicians’ statements or ads to third-party fact-checking has riled critics in the United States and abroad – including some of the company’s own employees – who say it lets politicians off the hook in an era when the truth is under siege. The reason for the policy, the company says, is that […]