David Atkins, Contributing Writer (via the author)

As a tech enthusiast and longtime opinion writer, it has been a pleasure for me to contribute to this wonderful magazine over the years. When many magazines were reticent to jump in, the Washington Monthly was tech-forward—embracing the blogging medium that gave me my start. Today, the Monthly continues to be an essential source for informed political analysis.

Unfortunately, technology has not been a great friend to journalism over the past 25 years. First, digital readership cut into print subscriptions, and cheaper online advertising replaced glossy ads in magazines and classified sections in newspapers. Then Google took over the digital advertising space, slashing already-depleted ad revenues. Facebook’s News Feed shifted publishing incentives toward sensationalism while depriving newsrooms of income. Based on misleading metrics from Facebook, many media ventures went bankrupt trying to “pivot to video” after the social media giant encouraged them to do so. 

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Now Elon Musk and artificial intelligence are threatening to do away with journalism and quality public affairs analysis entirely. Twitter’s new owner is openly hostile to journalism and wants to replace it with a network of trolls and a sewer of misinformation. Advances in artificial intelligence have already allowed automated programs to generate perfunctory stories in place of journalists, and these programs threaten to take over more ambitious forms of journalism—even political analysis—in the future. 

Of course, technological advances have had enormous benefits for readers and writers alike. Readers can gain instant access to a wealth of information wherever they are, and no trees need be cut down. Writers can publish and update information instantly.

But writers and editors cannot survive on the affirmation of clicks and shares alone. We need our readers to keep the lights on.

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At the Washington Monthly, we pride ourselves on providing in-depth reporting on many under-covered issues, from monopolization to community college to protecting the vote. We’re motivated by the belief that discerning readers deserve quality in a sea of hot takes. 

But now more than ever, the threats to good journalism loom large. The tech world isn’t just warping opinion journalism toward divisive content—it’s threatening its existence at a time when authoritarianism bred from disinformation and far-right populism threatens global democracy.

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With your help, though, we can weather this storm. Help us keep up the good work. Please contribute to the Washington Monthly today.

David Atkins

Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.