Fuller: It’s Long Past Time For Journalists To Engage in The Battle Against ‘Fake News’

BY JIM FULLER, NINA BOARD PRESIDENT

This morning I received an email from a reader with a passive-aggressive response to a series of reports I did on a pending government contract.

He didn’t like the article because he wanted the contract to move forward. As a result of questions raised by my reporting, it did not.

Fake News B SQUAREAttached to his email was a copy of a column he found somewhere on the internet, its main focus being, “Americans largely don’t believe that news organizations are fair and objective.”

This idea of bias is the foundation of a great battle against misinformation, propaganda and news comprehension that journalists find themselves waging every day.

Because journalists never want to “become the news,” we have become cannon fodder in this fight.

It’s time — long past time — to engage.

Our jobs, our publications, our readers and our communities are mounting casualties. Widespread ignorance, hate and an intensely divided country are the result of our passivity.

This is our own fault. We’ve gotten lazy. We’ve taken our readers for granted. We’ve taken as a given the idea that they understand news and the process and profession of journalism. We’ve taken the responsibilities bestowed upon us by the First Amendment as a gimme indicator of trust.

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Look no further than the online comments on your stories for support of what I’m saying. Tune into the propaganda radio shows during your commute and you’ll hear commentaries by throngs of listeners embracing the concept of “fake news” for anything that doesn’t fit the way they want to see the world.

Or just do what I did this morning, and check your email inbox or professional social media accounts for rabid attacks on what you do.

Do not write off these interactions as the rantings of the crazed or ignorant few. Instead, I invite you to do what we should have been doing all along.

Try to understand where the fake news perspective comes from. Then ask yourself what you can do about it. The answer is a lot, but it requires buy-in across the industry, starting with yourself and decision-makers at your news outlet.

Here is the good news. You can learn a slew of actionable strategies you can implement to reverse this tide at NINA’s upcoming training event with our friends at Trusting News. You may have seen some of what they can do for you and your organization through their recent partnership with Poynter.

Best of all, the event is free.

I’ll be there, but not because of my association with NINA. I’ll be there because there was another aspect of that reader email I read this morning that I agree with.

He misses the days when he and the public felt like they could, and should, trust the news.

So do I.

Trusting News Workshop

 

Fuller

Jim Fuller is a senior writer for the Daily Herald, adviser to the student newspaper at College of DuPage and president of the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association.