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The Books Briefing: Can Democracy Survive Without Journalism?

Franklin Foer makes the case, in his book World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech, that digital media’s constant push for clicks, and the ensuing ad revenue, have affected journalists’ editorial judgment. Viewers have made Fox News the most watched cable network in the country, even as its opinion hosts live in fear of challenging their audience or the president, Brian Stelter argues in a new book based on interviews with more than 140 Fox employees. Meanwhile, oncetrusted local newspapers have closed at an astonishing rate, meaning that much of the watchdog reporting that binds communities and holds the powerful to account will simply never be produced, the media critic Margaret Sullivan writes in her book Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy. Even The Defender, with more than 100 years of public service, hasn’t been immune to the struggles of the digital age: Last summer, it ceased print operations, and now publishes online only.

?Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas.

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What We’re Reading

A group of African Americans seeking extension work in 1920 (INTERNET ARCHIVE BOOK IMAGES / FLICKR)

The Chicago Defender’s Role in the Great Migration
“The newspaper … ran articles about African Americans dying from cold temperatures in the South, accompanied by editorials that asked: ‘If you can freeze to death in the North and be free, why freeze to death in the South and be a slave? The Defender says come.’”

?The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America, by Ethan Michaeli

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