Over the past five years, we have seen media fact checking dwindle to virtually nothing. The reason for this is mostly financial – advertising dollars are down significantly and cutbacks hit across the board. One of the functions that has been nearly wiped out is fact checking.
That is changing. Last week as I was reviewing with my public relations team the status of “high visibility” media placements - feature stories in national outlets as well as broadcast stories – I was pleased but somewhat surprised to hear that every single story we were working on had been fact checked. Yeah!
The Big Hole in Media
So, what is happening?
Entrepreneurs, listen up. There is a huge hole in our media. There is a need to get back to basics. A need for fact-based reporting and more importantly balanced analysis that is currently going unfulfilled. Journalists should not trust what has been written solely online or what the newswires are reporting. Journalists should take a skeptical view of every piece of information shared with them and all facts need to be confirmed by two reliable sources.
Impact of Fake News
The rise of fake news in our share-first society and the general public’s inability to determine what is fake and what is making an impact on how we perceive news and has come under increased scrutiny over the past several months.
What is fake news? Fake news is an umbrella term and encompasses several different versions of the truth. Fake news are websites that intentionally publish hoaxes and disinformation to drive web traffic. Fake news includes satirical sites that self-identify as humor outlets. Sometimes it is not readily apparant that these sites are satirtical. Fake news also comes from mainstream media that alters the facts and data to serve a particular point-of-view. Intentionally leaving out context for quotes or editing critical pieces of audio and video that provide context are not necessarily factually inaccurate but neither does it provide a balanced view of the situation.
Some experts will point to data and claim that stories based on data is as close to the truth as you will get. However, the media still needs to be able to choose the correct data sets, run the analysis, and interpret the data. As we recently saw with the last U.S. Presidential election, data is easily manipulated to support almost any desired point of view.
Fact Checking Makes a Comeback
A journalist’s job is to deliver facts to their audience so they can make informed choices. Distorted facts or blatant omissions are adding to the confusion rather than presenting the information to clarify issues. That is not journalism. Accuracy in fact checking will help media outlets develop trust with their readers.