A Detroit Department of Elections worker pushes the crowd back as absentee ballots are counted on Nov. 4, 2020.

A Detroit Department of Elections worker pushes the crowd back as absentee ballots are counted on Nov. 4, 2020.

November 8 is the date of the midterm elections, but today — September 15 — is Democracy Day

An initiative of news industry leaders at Hearken, the Center for Cooperative Media, the Institute for Nonprofit News, and the News Revenue Hub, Democracy Day brings national and local outlets together to report on threats against U.S. democratic norms — and accompanying threats to the free press.  

Those threats are not hard to find.  

Former President Trump continues to spread the lie that the 2020 vote was stolen from him. Dozens of election-denying Republican candidates have won their primaries; if they win in November, they will hold offices that have direct and indirect oversight of elections, giving them the ability to interfere with the will of the voters. (Several have said they wouldn’t have certified the 2020 election results.) Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that supporters of former President Trump “have swamped local election offices … with a coordinated campaign of requests for 2020 voting records [which] effectively weaponizes laws aimed at promoting principles of a democratic system — that the government should be transparent and accountable.” 

Through a mix of original reporting, aggregations of existing stories, and op-eds, Democracy Day partners and participants are concentrating coverage on this urgent threat.  

At Nieman Reports, we are sharing our interview with Chris Quinn, editor of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer in Ohio, about his outlet’s strategy for covering Trumpism and advocating for a free press; our piece on the rise of ‘democracy beats’ in newsrooms; Issac Bailey’s column on how newsroom diversity can improve coverage of democracy; and Mary Ellen Klas’s 2019 analysis of why government transparency and civic engagement erode when local journalism declines, among other stories. 

Click here for more of our coverage of how newsrooms are responding to the threat against U.S. democracy.

For an international perspective, check out our Reporting at Risk series, essays by journalists around the world who are doing vital independent journalism under authoritarian regimes. 

And tune in to our Twitter Spaces conversation today at 1 pm ET with reporters working on “democracy beats.” The conversation will be introduced by Nieman’s digital and audience engagement editor Adriana Lacy and will feature Nieman Reports contributor Celeste Katz Marston in conversation with KPCC & LAist managing editor Tony Marcano and Votebeat editorial director Jessica Huseman. 

The November 8 elections will determine control of the House and the Senate — as well as many state legislatures and governorships. Coverage of efforts to undermine free and fair elections will help determine the future of democracy, in the U.S. and around the world. 

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