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Military Veterans in Journalism launches program to lead fight against disinformation and extremism in military, veteran communities

By January 17, 2023Features, News

Three major philanthropic organizations commit support for MVJ’s project to curb the rise of extremism in military and veteran communities.

Jan. 17, 2023 – Military Veterans in Journalism is launching a new program today designed to combat the spread of disinformation and extremism in veteran and military communities, thanks to support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. Military Times, a trusted, independent source for news for the military and veteran communities, will serve as a key partner in managing the project.

This new project launches two years after the January 6 Capitol riot, in which about 13% of insurrectionists charged for their role in the siege had a military background, and after research has found that veterans and active-duty military members may make up at least 25% of militia rosters.

With its new “Fighting Disinformation in Military & Veteran Communities” program, MVJ will build and support a reporting team at Military Times to independently conduct investigative reporting on anti-democratic extremist groups that are targeting veterans and active-duty service members with disinformation.

“Extremist groups are denigrating our military and those who have served by seeking to co-opt the military and veteran community,” said Zack Baddorf, a U.S. Navy veteran turned journalist who now serves as MVJ’s executive director. “They are using veteran voices to normalize their groups and bolster their perceived credibility, patriotism and professionalism, ultimately undermining our nation. They must be exposed, and ultimately countered, through high-quality, investigative reporting that exposes and counters their disinformation efforts.”

In addition to Military Times, MVJ is partnering with two other prominent military- and veteran-serving publications — and Task & Purpose — on this project. The Associated Press is also partnering with MVJ on this effort to help bring national coverage on these issues.

“Our team at Military Times is always looking for ways to improve our coverage and to better serve our community,” said Mike Gruss, editor in chief of Sightline Media, which owns Military Times and related publications. “We know the issue of extremism within the military and veteran community deserves in-depth coverage. We’re excited to get to work conducting reporting on these critical issues.”

The program is supported by grants of $360,000 from the Knight Foundation, $100,000 from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, and $50,000 from the MacArthur Foundation. The funding will cover salaries for a team of three reporters, training, travel expenses, marketing, and project management.

“Disinformation is a threat to our nation and our democracy,” said Karen Rundlet, director of journalism at the Knight Foundation. “We must take a whole-of-society approach to countering extremist propaganda, including in military and veteran communities. We are investing in this project because we believe in the power of journalism to shine a light on nefarious actors who are seeking to exploit those who have served.”

MVJ will also partner with the Poynter Institute and their fact-checking arm, PolitiFact, to train the new reporting team on fact-checking and investigative best practices. The non-profit Task Force Butler Institute will train the reporters on best practices for investigating extremist groups.

MVJ will also work with the University of Alabama’s Veterans and Media Lab to research the military and veteran community’s consumption of information and trust levels in media throughout the program.

Further, MVJ will support community engagement efforts by the We the Veterans coalition and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland by providing material that can challenge disinformation propagated by extremist groups.

While this program currently has funding for 18 months, MVJ is seeking support from other funders to extend this effort through the next inauguration in January 2025. If you are interested in supporting our efforts to combat disinformation and extremism in the military and veteran communities through this program, please email [email protected].