Local News | Democracy | 2020 Election

The Secure Elections Network
Gabby Miller and Sara Sheridan of
Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism
Link to Presentation
Presentation Slides 
Wednesday, June 23
at 7pm ET, 4pm PT
Speaking on 
Local News, Democracy, and the 2020 Elections:
As the local news crisis accelerates, shady news networks fill the voids left behind

A weakened local news ecosystem is corrosive to democracy. In its absence, government transparency, political competition, and voter turnout suffers. We are currently at a critical moment in the evolution—or devolution—of both the quality and quantity of local journalism. All the while, 2020 proved to be a watershed year for newsroom cutbacks throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As the U.S. local news industry contracts, a vast array of political “news” networks have emerged .This webinar will provide an overview as to how “slimy” manipulation of trust in local news played out in the 2020 elections in Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. It will also dive into its broader implications for the future of fair elections and an informed American democracy.

Gabby Miller is a senior fellow at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, where she works on the Journalism Crisis Project. She’s spent the last year tracking newsroom cutbacks across the U.S. throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and contributed to a forthcoming Tow report on the state of local media during the 2020 elections, specifically on misinformation spread in Arizona and Georgia. Gabby previously worked at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog in Washington, D.C., as a media intelligence coordinator. There she helped manage a team that monitored cable news and talk radio in order to identify and contextualize emerging misinformation narratives in real-time. She received an M.S. from Columbia Journalism School in 2020, where she focused on American politics and national security, and a B.A. in women’s studies from Vassar College in 2017.

Sara Sheridan is a postgraduate fellow and editor at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. In addition to editing and producing the Tow Center’s weekly newsletter, she’s contributed research and reporting to several key projects since joining the team in 2020. Her work at Tow has included data reporting on the ways social media platforms interact with news publishers, the rising role of conservatism in local news, misinformation in the 2020 election in Pennsylvania, and innovations in the quest to bolster local journalism. She’s also covered breaking news and police brutality in Philadelphia, her hometown. Sara’s previous career in the restaurant industry contributes to her people-first approach to reporting, with the belief that the primary role of journalism is to arm communities with facts. She received an M.S. from Columbia Journalism School in 2020, where she focused on data reporting and labor issues in New York City. She graduated with a B.A. in international affairs and political science from Northeastern University in 2017.

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