Monday, November 14, 2016

The Need for Speed Feeds Falsehood

Kaitlin Webb

In this world of digital media, many journalists are opting for the "publish first, update later" strategy to keep up with the constantly changing news. This strategy, though, has led to the circulation of many false new stories, even from accredited news sources and journalists.

Speed is not what the public needs, it's the truth, and since journalists have sacrificed the truth for speed, they have created a culture that no longer cares about the truth or facts.

Twitter is not an excuse

According to RTDNA guidelines for social media and blogs, information posted online and on social media should go through the same fact checking process as any other article of news. Twitter is not an exception to this rule, but it is often treated that way.

Tweets may seem like constant breaking news, and, on top of that, journalists are restricted to a character limit, which makes it easy to forgo the guidelines to be able to break the story. These facts should not obstruct from reporting accurate news and are dangerous to society.

The 2016 election is an excellent example of the danger of the "publish first, update later" strategy. Many social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, spread false new stories, and there is a current debate as to whether that had an effect on results of the election.

Web traffic at the cost of trust

One of the main reasons some journalists choose the "publish first, update later" strategy is because it creates a lot of web traffic. That being said, if the stories are false, there is already a large portion of the public who has shared or retweeted the fake news stories. This makes it harder for the correction to stand out or reach the people who already read the false report.  

Not only does this make it difficult for journalists to correct their mistakes, but when they are constantly correcting their tweets or posts, it can create a rift between them and their followers. This rift is caused by a lack of trust in the news source and also can reduce the amount of shares a true news story gets.

The new role of journalists

The spread of false information has become an online epidemic, but many journalists are stepping up to combat it with the truth.

The Associated Press is one such news organization that takes a different strategy when it comes to social media and online news. They first take the time to verify their facts and sources before releasing the information. Then they also often seek out and correct mistakes made by other news organizations.

There is an enormous amount of information available to the public, but how much of it is true? The answer to this question is what the new role of journalism should be based around. Journalists need to be the driving force that ends this culture war on facts. The way they will do that is to make sure they are not sharing false news stories, constantly watching for mistakes, and then correcting those mistakes, which will, in the long run, reestablish trust between the media and the public.

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