Journalistic Integrity in the Age of Fake News

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fake newsQuality journalism relies on integrity-driven ethics and standards that protect people from the harmful spread of fake news and misinformation. With the rise of digital media, journalists have an even greater duty to present unbiased, accurate, and fair news. But the presentation and portrayal of current events are now in the middle of a war on fake news and media distrust.

People are now looking to social media, bloggers, and other digital platforms for news. So, it’s more important than ever that writers, journalists, bloggers, and influencers put the public ahead of political, personal, and commercial interests. They must publish stories with truth and facts at their root because it’s becoming easier for any person anywhere to publish anything.

How can we navigate a fragile media environment and lean on journalistic integrity in the age of fake news?

Let’s discuss how social media, blogging, and the idea of fake news affect how journalists/writers portray and present current events. We’ll suggest ways to portray and present current events that uphold journalistic integrity. We’ll also briefly touch on leveraging the distrust of the press that stems from politics.

Digital Media, Fake News, and the Portrayal of Current Events

We can’t ignore the evolution of media and how it’s prompted the progression of fake news. As we identify how the media and fake news have evolved, we better understand the way current events are presented and portrayed.

How has the media evolved?

The media has evolved tremendously due to the rise of technology. Traditional media such as TV used to be the primary outlet for information on current events, breaking news, and trending topics. With the rise of the internet, that has since shifted to digital media avenues like social media, websites, blogs, email, and so forth.

The evolution of media allows everyone to share information regardless of whether it is true or how it influences the actions of others.

How has fake news evolved?

Fake news took on a life of its own when BuzzFeed News editor Craig Silverman coined the phrase and defined it as “completely false information that was created and spread for profit.” He was using it for a story about an Ebola outbreak that was completely false. We’ve since seen the term used to expose stories on a variety of subjects that are lacking in truth.

Fake news has evolved rapidly in our digital world. Anyone can start a blog or website and present information that isn’t well-researched, factual, or valid in any way. Self-proclaimed journalists, writers, and bloggers can spread the information they want and not necessarily the information the public needs.

How has the evolution of media and fake news affected the way current events are portrayed and presented?

Anyone can call themselves a journalist, blogger, or writer and publish their pieces at will on a variety of platforms. People portray and present events in their own perspectives, and readers mistakenly share these as facts.

Media outlets are very careful about regulating people’s right to free speech and representation. So, they ultimately allow current events to be portrayed and presented in a multitude of ways, from a multitude of perspectives.

In a survey by Statista on whether adults knowingly or unknowingly spread fake news, 49% said they shared fake news online and only found out later that it was false. This goes to show how challenging it is to regulate millions of writers and hold them all to the same industry standards.

How to Accurately Portray and Present Current Events

How can journalists and writers present current events in ways that establish trust and accurately portray them? What are some best practices for presenting current events via digital media?

Fact check everything

As it gets harder to distinguish between real and fake information, it is more important than ever to employ fact-checking. Do not put this task solely on your readers. Ensure readers can trust your pieces by providing them with the sources and facts necessary to back up what you’ve written. 

Do not use clickbait headlines

If you’re a journalist of integrity, accuracy, and ownership, you know this is an absolute no-no. Clickbait headlines will put a huge wedge in between your audience and you if they’re clicking on your headlines and they don’t match up with your story.

Vet your sources

Ensure you are thoroughly vetting all your sources. You’ll be more able to provide a story that is fact-based and backed with extensive research your readers can also dive into.

Be a well-versed writer with integrity

Getting readers to trust you is based on the stories you put out and how accurately you portray and present current events. But these stories are dependent on the journalist/writer who is writing them. Be a well-versed writer who presents a balanced perspective of the issues you’re writing about. Care about the context of the story so you don’t oversimplify or misrepresent anything, and consistently update information over the life of a story.

Know what platforms to publish on

As a journalist, writer, or blogger, you need to know what platforms are best for you to publish on. Understanding the issues platforms like Facebook consistently have with the spread of fake news might compel you to explore other options. Publish on platforms that align with the principles of journalistic integrity. 

Media forensics

Beware of media manipulation. You can Facetune, Photoshop, delete, and change almost anything on the internet, especially if you’re knowledgeable in media forensics. Gaining some knowledge around media forensics or hiring a team for this specific reason is a good idea so you’re able to spot manipulated media and refrain from using it in your own stories.

Be mindful of AI and algorithms

AI and algorithms will not replace the value of human editors, but companies will continue to try.  Artificial intelligence and algorithms can spell trouble for writers, journalists, and bloggers because:

  • Algorithms are programmed by humans, so they can be programmed with bias
  • Artificial intelligence mimics human behavior and can learn how to produce fake content because of it
  • Algorithms and AI can misuse data by further promoting harmful content to vulnerable consumers

Keep the role of AI and algorithms in media in mind as you seek to share the truth with your audience.

Leveraging the Distrust of the Press that Stems From Politics

When it comes to the distrust of the press in a political environment, people are essentially thinking: “If I can’t trust reputable media outlets when it comes to something so important like politics, can I trust any journalist, writer, blogger, or media person out there?” This has resulted in people taking the news into their own hands either by becoming journalists/writers themselves or researching other news outlets and media personnel to trust.

You can leverage this distrust by setting yourself apart from the core of your reader’s media distrust. Find out what your audience or readers need to trust the media again. Study the answers you get and present your pieces, current events, and information with all of those things at the forefront.

Conclusion

Maintaining journalistic integrity in the age of fake news is dependent upon the actions of journalists, writers, and bloggers.

Aim to put people first by presenting unbiased news with a complete perspective. Give people the tools they need to best navigate the information at hand in their individual circumstances.

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