Journalism Is The Solution To Fake News Solution
Journalism is the solution to fake news. As a recovering broadcast journalist (I spent almost the first six years of my career working in local news and sport) I’ve watched most media outlets move from journalism to content syndication.
Looking at this image it’s not about the outlet – but about the reliability of the source. Often that comes down to two things: their ability to provide accurate information and put it in to context.
It’s why most journalists have contact books. Books full of people they can trust to talk or explain to them a particular topic. These people are often aware of wider context, but generally have no specific context if a story is breaking in a place that they are not.
An example of this is a railway accident in which local journalists reported two fatalities. Two journalists had both verified deaths from first responders that had seen the bodies. Only hours later did it become clear that both journalists had spoken to the same responder – so had reported the same fatality. An Editor couldn’t know that at the time they first broke the story (and the two fatalities). The story was corrected as soon as the error was clear.
Another issue is Editorial line. The graphic is really looking at the Editorial line of the outlets – let’s call it political bias. None of the outlets hide their skew – they often promote it, because it appeals to their readers/viewers/listeners. The challenge is that when you read a story from a publication, understand the editorial bias (it impacts their contextual position, as well as their news reporting). Read a story written by an outlet from each side – and the truth is probably somewhere in between.
The difference between reporting and journalism
Now, let’s talk about the difference between a reporter and a journalist. A reporter… reports. They explain what they see (or are being told). A journalist talks with multiple sources to understand as much about a story as they can in order to provide a balanced, considered perspective. Their stories aren’t (generally) definitive. They’ll explain that one side says X, while the other says Y. They might offer their opinion based on the positions of each side, and the independent subject matter experts that they’ve spoken with as part of writing the story.
Citizen reporters, not citizen journalists
We live in a world of citizen reporters – not citizen journalists. The news cycle has gone from being hourly, to rolling, to real-time – and journalists use sources that are often unreliable, or simply report what they see – ignoring other information that is relevant to the story, but they just aren’t aware of, choose to ignore, or don’t understand the relevance of.
The problem is that fake news isn’t just stories that are designed to mislead – they are stories that have not been researched properly. Either because of an eagerness to break something, to “scoop” other outlets, or because they fail to understand the full picture.
They say the life of tweet is 15 minutes. I think it’s a lot less than that. The problem is that even if news networks correct a story people don’t care – they already know what you reported. If it reinforces their political or ideological views… why do they want something that might challenge them?
First and right
My first News Editor told me, “the goal of a journalist is to be first, and right. If you’re not right, nobody cares that you were first”.
That mindset is the solution to the problem of fake news. We need more journalism and less reporting.