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Reporters need tools, training, time to combat fake news

Posted: June 15, 2017 | Tags: fake news

Fake news has the potential to damage both mainstream media and the public.

That was the message at a June 12 National Press Club event titled “Is Seeing Still Believing,” which featured Santiago Lyon, who works with the World Press Photo Foundation, and Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan.

“I feel the term has become weaponized,” Sullivan told the crowd of two-dozen about fake news.


The Washington Post's Margaret Sullivan spoke at the National Press Club about how to combat fake news.

The conference opened with moderator Mickey H. Osterreicher reminding the audience about his group’s — the National Press Photographers Association —mission, which he says is to depict reality.

While the panel discussed long-standing ethical concerns like plagiarism, Photoshopping, bias and verifying the sources of information, its main focus was on visual journalism in an era of fake news.

Fake news became a major concern in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Research in the Spring 2017 Journal of Economic Perspectives by Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow points to the impact of fake news as bolstered on social media.

“Fake news was both widely shared and heavily tilted in favor of Donald Trump,” Allcott and Gentzkow wrote in their study.

And nearly two-thirds of Americans reported confusion about “basic facts” because of the fake news atmosphere online, according to a December 2016 Pew Research study.

Now, in the months following the election, Trend Micro, a multinational software security company, said it’s working to establish a system to verify news and information online.

Technology is fighting fake news.

“A host of new startups and technical fixes — from authenticated content to automated fact-checking projects” are being built, according to a report titled “A Field Guide to Fake News” from the Public Data Lab.

Samaruddin Stewart, a journalist and media technologist on the panel, said journalists need the three Ts: tools, training and time.

He suggested a need for digital analytical tools to see if images have been doctored, better training for journalists on source validity and accuracy, and more time to do better work.

Bill Anderson, another panelist who is also the director of news content and operations for Sinclair Broadcast Group, agreed with Stewart on the need for taking more time.

“Speed kills,” Anderson said, noting it’s, “better to be right and be second than be first and be wrong.”

However, media consumers are shown a massive volume of content that is consumed at lightning speed.

Click-bait reports, half-researched ideas and outright lies manage to get millions of hits on social media across the United States and abroad, according to NBC News.

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