TIME magazine named “The Guardians” and the “War on Truth” as its 2018 Person of the Year – marking the first time that someone who is no longer alive was selected.

Jamal Khashoggi, Maria Ressa, Wa Lone, Kyaw Soe Oo and Annapolis-based Capital Gazette will be featured on four different versions of the magazine’s cover.  According to TIME:

“This ought to be a time when democracy leaps forward, an informed citizenry being essential to self-government. Instead, it’s in retreat. Three decades after the Cold War defeat of a blunt and crude autocracy, a more clever brand takes nourishment from the murk that surrounds us. The old-school despot embraced censorship. The modern despot, finding that more difficult, foments mistrust of credible fact, thrives on the confusion loosed by social media and fashions the illusion of legitimacy from supplicants.

“Modern misinformation, says David Patrikarakos, author of the book War in 140 Characters, titled after the original maximum length of a Twitter post, “does not function like traditional propaganda. It tries to muddy the waters. It tries to sow as much confusion and as much misinformation as possible, so that when people see the truth, they find it harder to recognize.”

“The story of this assault on truth is, somewhat paradoxically, one of the hardest to tell. “We all learned in our schools that journalists shouldn’t be the story ourselves, but this is, again, not our choice,” says Can Dündar, who, after being charged with revealing state secrets and nearly assassinated as a newspaper editor in Turkey, fled to Germany, where he set up a news site. “This is the world of the strong leaders who hate the free press and truth.”

“That world is led, in some ways, by a U.S. President whose embrace of despots and attacks on the press has set a troubling tone. “I think the biggest problem that we face right now is that the beacon of democracy, the one that stood up for both human rights and press freedom—the United States—now is very confused,” says Ressa, the Rappler editor. “What are the values of the United States?”

“The question no longer seems strange, for the same reason a close look at where we get our news no longer sounds like civics-class homework. In normal times, the U.S. news media is so much a part of public life that, like air, it’s almost impossible to make it out. But it has been made conspicuous—by the attacks and routine falsehoods of the President, by social-media behemoths that distribute news but do not produce it and by the emerging reality of what’s at stake.

“Efforts to undermine factual truth, and those who honestly seek it out, call into doubt the functioning of democracy. Freedom of speech, after all, was purposefully placed first in the Bill of Rights.

“In 2018, journalists took note of what people said, and of what people did. When those two things differed, they took note of that too. The year brought no great change in what they do or how they do it. What changed was how much it matters.

***

“I can tell you this,” declared Chase Cook, a reporter for the Capital Gazette. “We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”

“Cook’s promise, shared with the world on Twitter, came just a few hours after five of his colleagues were killed. The man charged with their murders had been obsessed with the paper since it wrote about his harassment of a high school classmate—part of its routine coverage of local legal proceedings. He made the office a crime scene. To put the damn paper out, staffers set up laptops in the bed of a pickup in a parking garage across the street.

“When the next edition arrived—on schedule—the opinion page was blank but for the names of the dead. Gerald Fischman. Rob Hiaasen. John McNamara. Rebecca Smith. Wendi Winters. Beneath their names was a coda that might have been written with a goose quill: “Tomorrow this page will return to its steady purpose of offering our readers informed opinion about the world around them, that they might be better citizens.”

“That’s the workaday business of local news. “Community journalists are the only ones who are going to go to your kid’s basketball game,” says Selene San Felice, a Capital Gazette features reporter. “They’re the only ones who are going to cover lifeguard training … They’re the only ones who are going to cover your local elections and tell you exactly what’s going on.”

“This passing of valued information is a wholesome essential of self-government. We can’t reason together if we don’t know what we’re talking about. But the information has to be trusted.”

More here.

The staff of the Capital Gazette, photographed in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 9, (shown above) from left: Jimmy DeButts; E.B. (Pat) Furgurson III; Katherine Fominykh; Jeffrey Bill; Joshua McKerrow; Anthony Messenger; Christine H. Gorham; Andrea Chamblee; Rachael Pacella; Selene San Felice; Danielle Ohl; Paul Gillespie; Rick Hutzell; Erin Hardy; Janel Cooley. Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME

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