Monday, September 19, 2016

Weighty Words

Heather Willard

When nurses and doctors start practicing their craft, their mistakes can cost lives. But when journalists do, it simply butchers the human language. Or is that an understatement?

Truth in words is one of the things that separates journalists from bloggers. BuzzFeed is notorious for its eye-candy headlines and short, bite-size articles that draw readers in. They are also known for creating viral content that is often just plain untrue and is vetted by the readers instead of the authors. For example, a story of an elaborate note-passing fight on a plane was found out to be entertaining, but entirely false.

Fast food menus, editorial pages, viral videos and journalistic articles: all of these things should be held to a high truth standard, and not just in facts, but in how the facts are presented. KFC is known to be unhealthy, but tried to rebrand themselves with a healthy image to draw in customers for their deep fried chicken –now called “slow-cooked.” Truth is not only saying the truth, but not phrasing words in such a way that may construe the topic to be better or different than it really is –even if the words are not exactly false.

Editorial pages are also known to not exactly be true, but to be taken as the truth since they are in a newspaper. Take the New York Times, for example. An article on Amazon’s workplace culture was filled with strong statements from unnamed sources.  An Amazon employee immediately responded with a passionate article refuting these claims, but was not able to post a link to his story under the NYT story. Amazon executives also could not find the truth in some of the anonymous sources, even though the piece was praised by several noted journalists.

Is hard-edged reporting creating true content that accurately displays the world, or is it creating click-bait and biased material to draw readers into a floundering industry? Many journalists struggle to maintain the same standards on all platforms as social media, and the digital era continues to broaden the responsibilities of reporters.

It is so much easier to lie and spread false information than actually do the fact checking and reporting that any news or social media event requires. But is that possible? More and more, journalists are forced to cover more platforms by themselves, and there is not enough time in the day to uphold the ethical standards required of journalists.

This comic displays how many students, writers and journalists can view fact checking in the digital age.

Two studies found that it takes on average 12 or more hours for a hoax to be refuted, and therefore, the false news has already travelled further and faster than the reality can hope to. This shows that it is imperative to be right the first time, or correct the story as soon as possible in the current day and age. News travels fast in the 24-hour cycle, whether or not it is true. It is the responsibility of readers and writers to correct falsehoods and maintain the integrity that news and social media should have.

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