An Update on CCLP from Director Geoffrey Cowan

During the past few days, members of the CCLP board and CCLP Senior Fellows, as well as other colleagues at USC, have been asking how our various projects have been impacted by the coronavirus. The members of the CCLP team are all now working remotely as a result of guidance from USC as well as from local, state and national leaders. USC classes, including my large lecture class, are being conducted by Zoom. Most students, including our CCLP student workers, have returned home.

To our great regret, we have decided to postpone the inaugural Freedom of the Press Film festival which we were planning to host on May 1-2 with our partners at the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Los Angeles Times, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Our work on new business models for news has taken an unexpected direction due to the dramatic change in the information marketplace and the habits of news consumers. The way in which the United States and other nations respond to the coronavirus emergency will provide new topics for us to explore in the area of public diplomacy.

Most important, all of our efforts to deal with election integrity – including the project funded by Google – have been impacted by the coronavirus. We are just starting to think about the future of those projects. This brief note offers a first quick response to questions about our election-related efforts; we will have more details soon.

The coronavirus has affected us all, of course, and it will affect our lives and our work for months, perhaps years, to come. Nowhere is that more true – or perhaps more important – than in the conduct of elections. There are and will continue to be new restrictions, to be sure, but there are also new opportunities for teaching and for research.

We want to recognize and adjust to these changes in an organized, systemic fashion. To do so, we have begun to consult with our colleagues on campus, our many partners including election officials, leaders from industry and who run or have run political campaigns for both parties, journalists, and people in the academy and in civic organizations. We are seeking their advice as to ways to focus our work under these new conditions – looking for guidance on how we should make changes – and how we should not. There will be opportunities to serve the public interest, but there will also be distractions. Distinguishing one from the other will be an essential task.

If you have any questions or advice to offer regarding our election security efforts, please contact the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy at commlead@usc.edu.

Best regards,

Geoff