Reporters, we aren’t referees, we are in the game: thoughts on ‘Fake News’

Too many reporters still think they’re referees, when really, they’re in the game.

That was something I shared during an enlightening panel discussion I was a part of on ‘Fake News,‘ as hosted by WHYY and NPR host Joshua Jackson. (Read this overview of the event.)

Here are some other ideas I shared or participated in:

  • Ultimately we news consumers are responsible for ourselves, but each person tricked by something hurts us all. You are your network. Don’t just sit and consume. Being a citizen is a full-time job.
  • Does social media perpetuate fake news? Of course, just like the highway system contributed to an increase in car deaths, but that’s a symptom, something that needs to be solved for, not a reason to go backward.
  • What is the incentive to be truthful and put the effort to be sure? The social contract. That’s tough because we want to be part of an in-group.
  • We’re as honest as our in-group values. It matters when our in-group says it matters. Facts don’t matter, narrative does.
  • Are news organizations being challenged as the arbiter of truth? Yes. It’s so much easier to distribute information, so the monopoly is lost. So news orgs have a responsibility to participate and play a role as curator and marketer of truth.
  • What’s the difference between fake and a mistake? Intentionality. That takes context and knowledge from journalists to help with judgment calls.
  • Fake news is not new. Yellow journalism between Hearst and Pulitzer papers in the 1890s, it’s just so much easier to distribute.


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