Spread of 'fake news' online should drive journalists back to first principles

The spread of "fake news", opinion dressed as fact and downright propaganda online should inspire a revival in traditional journalistic principles of information gathering, the Director of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (A.B.U.) says. 

Wendy Everett is in Samoa for the 10th Pacific Media Partnership Conference and spoke to the issue of building trust in media at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel on Monday. 

"I think everyone decided yes there is a bit of a crisis because in fact there is so much online that may or may not be true, sand some thing that are clearly untrue," Ms. Everett said. 

“I think people decided that there could be more trust in what they do. 

"We suggested that what they could do is go back to journalistic principles, which are verification, attribution, freedom from influence, power and also truth. 

“Two things that really came to the top were media literacy and journalists understanding what their principles are [and] being very clear about them and then telling the public about them. 

“Another thing that strengthens trust is having [a] strong media council where all the media players get together, talk about ethics, values, and building trust and how to do it, and share their knowledge, and they also go out to the public.”

Ms. Everett said sustaining reliability, reputation and trust in media reporting is not a challenge if media organisations are held in high regard by their audiences.

“If your model is trusted news, you make sure your journalists are trained, you make sure when they come back someone looks at their copy, sub-edited, edited by good editors who know all about what they can and cannot write, especially in court stories, so all the principles of journalism are covered.”

She said the concept of “digital first” journalism is possible in the Pacific as the region adapts to more technological changes. 

“You just have to work it out," she said. 

"You have to have the processes within your company and newsroom to support it. 

“But digital first, if you do that people respond. 

"They are on their phones all day, looking at Facebook, so if you can get content on digital first and follow it up with all other aspects of your company - online, podcast etc.” 

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