Wednesday, September 7, 2016

True or False: Protecting the Truth in the 21st Century

Kaitlin Webb

Imagine: you are in a crowed cafeteria, what do you hear? There are plastic trays slapping on metal counters, friends chatting about the day, the cash register ringing, spoons scraping up food and plopping it on plates.

In this cacophony of noise you are trying to distinguish one particular sound, this noisy mess is the information constantly surrounding you, and that one sound you are searching for is the truth. It is a journalist's job to report that truth, but consumers now have a role too.

In this information overload where journalistic content can come from almost anywhere and anyone, it is difficult for the truth to stand out.

Adapting values and guidelines

As technology and society have changed, so have the values of journalism. The core value of truth,"to seek truth and report it as fully as possible" has always remained and is the foundation of journalism. But in this world of fast paced information, journalists have adapted their codes to not only be truthful, but to "be transparent" and "engage community as an end, rather than as a means". All of these values intertwine to create ethical journalism.

This new code isn't just for the journalists though; it's for the consumers or the "community" as well. The consumers now participate in the conversation; they tweet, like and share what they believe to be important in a blink of an eye, and the journalists need to listen.

The consumer's role

As journalists strive to report the truth accurately, it's inevitable that they will make a mistake or that some will provide false information. This is why the public needs to be media literate, so they can tell if what they read is true or false.  

The speed at which information can be shared is amazing but can also be hazardous. For example, when Mashable made a mistake in one of their tweets, before they could correct it, Ann Curry, an established journalist, retweeted it. The journalistic value of transparency calls for the acceptance of the mistakes and to fix the error, which Mashable did.

But how many hundreds of people saw the false information and believed it true before it could be corrected? A consumer must be able to realized when something in the news is off and know how to research for the truth, in other words, they must learn be media literate.

The journalist's role

Journalists should encourage media literacy in their community so that everyone can be self-informed. They are also also always be on the hunt along with the public to spot false news stories and stop them from spreading.

The fake news story about Megyn Kelly that trended on Facebook is a perfect example of journalists pursuing the truth. Facebook uses an algorithm for their trending news, but it doesn't always flush out  clickbait and thus, it led to a false story that trended around the world.

It was a journalist who pointed out that the story was a fake. It was journalists who made sure Facebook was held responsible for their mistake and publicly apologized for the story.

Working together

Technology has gone through so many changes, and it's not about to stop. As it changes, so will journalism and the consumer, but the need for the truth will never change. It's up to both journalists and the consumer throughout all this change to be a watchdog for the truth.  

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