Journalism in Fake News Era – The Rise of Fake News

Journalism in Fake News Era – The Rise of Fake News

Rahim Chagani

Fake News, Fraud, And Knowingly Engaging News has become yet another strategy to convert readers into partisans. Traditional news reporting has had the goal of neutrality — nothing but the facts. But that is no longer enough for fake news. It does not only ignores the facts but also reports falsehoods as facts. It is increasingly clear it also seeks the downfall of professional journalism.

Journalism has already been compromised by getting the news first & putting deadlines first. Fake news gives facts short shrift, bases stories on assumptions or hearsay extrapolate from mere half-truths, possibilities, likelihoods, exaggerations & wishful thinking. Fake News has become yet another strategy to convert readers into partisans — to get them to take action without thinking. 

Its goal is to get people to believe someone has done something wrong. Falsehoods can wreck a debate. Fake news can wreck a democracy.

Journalism moreover is not a debate; it is reporting. It uncovers and communicates facts as carefully as possible. It gives all possibly relevant positions and facts. Only then can it give an assessment, the likely truth of the matter.

The changes from print and broadcast to web media have shifted media’s goal from reporting the truth to getting attention, traffic, and ad-revenue. The easiest way to do that is to be the first to use shock and surprise. Fact-checking, balancing positions, assessing relevancy, accuracy, and alternatives – confirming truth – take time. On the Internet, the winner of the race is the first and the fastest. 

This is why social media channels foster fake news. Until today, they made a virtue out of refusing to edit or check. Playing passive was their way to appear impartial. They are journalistic media. In denying, journalism’s putting truth first they have fostered and incurred a heavy social cost. Their abandonment of dialogue has led to division, distrust, and social disintegration. They have allowed rumors, calumny, and falsehood to take over their platform. Their real-time nature has allowed fake news to take root, spread, and take over the net like the invasive species of miscommunication it is.

Fake news serves one master: partisanship, and one progeny:  partisans. President Obama warned, confronted & was stymied by uncontrolled partisanship. It destroyed the government’s ability to legislate for nearly a decade – the same decade in which the net replaced print and broadcast media.

Far greater disasters loom as America’s enemies — and friends — wake to realize that the door to the temple of truth is now wide open. Countless fake and false factoids are planted now by Russian, Iran, and North Korea but also by nonprofits pushing a point, for-profits taking advantage, and criminals exploiting this unlimited opportunity.

The fire fake-news has sparked now is out of control because these new social media forests have no firefighters – no journalists, and no links to journalism. No wonder that the partisans of politics attack journalists – our only defenders of the truth. Now the battle must move from old to new, onto the plains of social media.

First, we need to pick up the pieces. Evidence is overwhelming that Facebook’s trending section is vulnerable witness the immense likes of  Conservative 101, American News, Proud Patriots, and Proud to be conservative. This in turn fed fake news real-time to broadcast and online media channels eager to break news as fast as possible.

Remedies are afoot. Facebook, Twitter, and 30 other organizations have joined First Draft’s Partner Network to flag fake news. They have partnered with fact-checking platforms like Snopes.

Though the fire is no longer raging, the barbarian’s are still at the gate. Journalists face huge challenges ahead: less time to research, check and report a story. Channels of communication are multiplying – and changing. Broadcast gets replaced by cable gets replaced by a proliferation of packaged channels. Training in the new information technologies is needed. 

News consumers need to be informed of the phases a story has to go through before it goes public. Pushing narrative over facts needs to be questioned.

We need to match the diversity of today’s consumers with diverse staffing in our media and newsrooms. We now realize that professionalism can mean being brought up with the same ideology, narrow worldviews, and similar assumptions — starkly different from an increasingly diverse society. In the face of all this journalism must remake itself — and create new ways to report — 24/7 — truthfully.

How about having an interior watchdog? Who makes sure that the workplace isn’t unfriendly to people who don’t share opinions with their heads.

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