Journalists often struggle to cover extremism. Learn how news coverage can disrupt hateful speech

Extremist ideology – centered on anti-semitism, white supremacy, anti-immigration and radical anti-democratic government beliefs – is increasingly becoming part of mainstream political speech. In the United States, white supremacist groups have sparked acts of domestic terrorism in Charlottesville, Virginia; Portland, Oregon; and the United States Capitol. Even in the face of these acts, extremist messaging is regularly reinforced by political candidates and members of Congress. Globally, Brazil, Hungary, Poland, France, Spain, New Zealand and many other countries are facing a rise in far-right groups gaining a foothold in national politics.

Journalists have struggled in covering these issues. While covering extremism is an important part of accountability reporting, coverage can run the risk of amplifying and normalizing dangerous rhetoric and hate speech resulting in increasingly extreme views entering mainstream discourse.

The featured plenary session The Role of News in Combating Extremism Recruiting will take place at the 2023 Online News Association Conference in Philadelphia on Friday, Aug. 25, at 10 a.m. We’ll tackle this issue head on, asking how journalists can cover this trend in a responsible and meaningful way, how hate speech “spills over” from private social media channels to large public forums, and how it has been evolving to anti-trans rhetoric and more. In short, what should we expect as many cities and countries enter critical elections in the next few years?

The speakers for this essential conversation are:

  • Hannah Allam, National Security Reporter Focusing on Extremism and Domestic Terrorism, The Washington Post
  • Patrick Boehler, Head of Innovation and Audience Engagement, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
  • Dana Coester, Editor-in-Chief, 100 Days in Appalachia
  • Lewis Raven Wallace, Abolition Journalism Fellow at Interrupting Criminalization and author of The View from Somewhere: Undoing the Myth of Journalistic Objectivity
  • Odette Yousef, National Security Correspondent on Extremism, NPR

The conversation will be led by moderator Ryan Howzell, Research Program Coordinator at PEN America and one of the researchers of the organization’s report Hate in the Headlines: Journalism and the Challenge of Extremism. This essential research was the inspiration for convening this panel.

We’re hosting ONA23 in two parts. In Philadelphia, we’ll gather from Aug. 23-26 with our signature blend of in-person learning, inspiration and networking. Then, we will host timely, lean-back virtual conversations affecting newsrooms everywhere at ONA23: Onward (Sept. 28-29). If you’ve registered for Philadelphia, then your Onward access is already unlocked; Standalone passes for Onward are also available.

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