Hate in the Headlines: Journalism and the challenge of extremism

As extremism has increasingly penetrated mainstream politics, journalists, especially political reporters, face new challenges.

Some news organizations have dramatically reframed coverage and created new beats to track the surge in extremism, but fundamental changes are still needed if audiences are to get a full and accurate view of how anti-democratic forces are infusing civic life, from local school board meetings to nationwide elections.

A recent report published by PEN America, Hate in the Headlines, found that without hypervigilance from journalists and editors, propaganda and disinformation can slide into reporters’ stories, especially as extremists deliberately target them to convey their messages to the broader public. But the report also identified lessons learned as journalists have reckoned with this shifting political landscape, and from reporters who have long covered extremism.

Join PEN America and the National Press Club Journalism Institute on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 1:30 p.m. ET for a virtual discussion of how the mainstreaming of political extremism is affecting journalism, and how journalists and newsrooms are–or could be–shifting their practices in response.

Speakers include:

More speakers to be announced.

Please contact Hannah Waltz with any questions or concerns, including accessibility requests, at [email protected].

About the speakers

Rhema Bland is a journalism talent acquisition specialist for McClatchy and an adjunct instructor at UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. Previously, she served as the first permanent director of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting. Prior to that, she spent four years working higher ed as a student media advisor for Florida Gulf Coast University and later as director of the student media program at East Carolina University. She is a veteran journalist, reporting and producing for CBS, the Florida Times-Union, WJCT and the New York Daily News.

Natalia Contreras has covered a range of topics as a community journalist including local government, public safety, immigration, and social issues. Natalia comes to Votebeat from the Austin American-Statesman, where her reporting focused on impacts of government policies on communities of color. Natalia previously reported for the Indianapolis Star, where she helped launch the first Spanish-language newsletter, and at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Natalia was born in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico, and grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Scott Kraft is editor at large for enterprise journalism and special projects at the Los Angeles Times, where he oversees the Investigations department, standards and practices, polling and survey research projects, and newsroom-wide reporting initiatives. During nearly four decades at The Times, Kraft has been managing editor, deputy managing editor/news and national editor, as well as a foreign and national correspondent. As an editor, he has directed work that won nine Pulitzer Prizes. As a reporter, he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in feature writing while a New York-based national correspondent for the Associated Press before joining The Times in its Chicago bureau. He spent a decade abroad as The Times’ bureau chief in Nairobi, Johannesburg and Paris. He covered the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid as well as the ill-fated U.S. military mission in Somalia, among other major stories. His story for the Los Angeles Times magazine on the AIDS epidemic in Africa won the SPJ Distinguished Service Award for Foreign Correspondence. He has served as both a juror and chair of the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting. He also was a Pulitzer Prize juror in international reporting in 2014 and subsequently chaired four Pulitzer juries – Public Service in 2015, International Reporting in 2020, Explanatory Reporting in 2021 and Illustrated Reporting and Commentary in 2022. He is currently a president of the Overseas Press Club of America.

Wesley Lowery is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, best selling author, podcast host and on-air correspondent. At The Marshall Project, he is among the team members working on Testify, an unprecedented effort to examine the criminal courts in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. He was an executive producer of In the Cold Dark Night, an Emmy-nominated documentary chronicling the effort to solve the 1983 lynching of Timothy Coggins. For GQ, he has gone deep about marriage and monogamy with Will Smith, talked politics and the press with Trevor Noah, dove into the post-scandal life of Andrew Gillum, and chronicled the last days of death row inmate Dustin Higgs. For Men’s Health he wrote about opiod overdoses among black men in Milwaukee and cities across the country. And for the cover of Ebony he profiled Tessa Thompson. As an on-air correspondent for 60 Minutes+. the streaming version of CBS News’ iconic newsmagazine, Lowery reported from protests in Minneapolis and Kenosha, aboard a crab boat in the Chesapeake Bay, and from the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lowery has extensively chronicled police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement, and specializes in journalism that marshals data to illuminate the realities within the three branches of the American criminal legal system — police, prosecutors and prisons.


The National Press Club Journalism Institute promotes an engaged global citizenry through an independent and free press, and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire a more representative democracy. As the non-profit affiliate of the National Press Club, the Institute powers journalism in the public interest.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

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