What can publishers do about "fake" news?

Fake news is one of the factors that has exacerbated low trust in the media.

According to Reuters research less than half the population (43%) trust the media across all the 36 countries surveyed and almost a third (29%) actively avoids the news, rising to 38% in the United States. However, the crisis over fake news offers the opportunity for publishers to re-think and improve their practices.

First let’s look at how fake news is defined and what steps publishers could take to tackle the problem…

 

What is fake news?

The panel for “Mind the Gap: News – Is It Fake?,” a civic presentation on fake news held Sept. 19 in Minneapolis, USA, agreed that fake news can be one of two things:

  1. An outright false or misleading piece of content masquerading as information gathered under journalistic principles

  2. An epithet for news a consumer disagrees with and chooses not to recognize.

Material that fits either definition can cloud the waters and interfere with genuine public discourse.

 

Is there anything publishers can do about it?

It isn’t easy for news consumers to determine what’s fact and what’s fiction, but resources and techniques do exist for separating the two.

  • Optimize resources

First Draft, a non-profit coalition aiming to establish protocols around verification has created a useful checklist for publishers to test the authenticity of photos and videos.

Claire Wardle, strategy and research leader at First Draft, said,

"One of the most troubling aspects of the current information landscape is how people who are trying to spread disinformation are deliberately using the media to help amplify their messages.

  • Trace a figure right back to its source

The fact-checking charity, Full Fact describes how they have “lost count” at the number of times figures have been miscommunicated in the media.

Phoebe Arnold, head of communications and impact at  fact-checking charity Full Fact said, “The simplest thing journalists can do as gatekeepers of reliable information is to trace a figure right back to its source before quoting it, every time.”

“Full Fact has lost count of the number of times our factcheckers have followed a figure round and round through the media only to finally find that the original source says something quite different to the claim.”

The news industry needs to be much more aware of how they are being used, thinking much more strategically about policies for reporting disinformation and working collectively to make industry-wide decisions about what to cover, when and how.

  • Employ technology

As a safeguard against fake news, Reuters journalists use Reuters News Tracer, a proprietary algorithm that employs over 700 signals to determine whether trending topics are newsworthy and truthful.

The social media listening tool was taught by journalists to ask key questions, consult historical data, and weigh relevance just like a human would, but within 40 milliseconds.

Tracer then takes the tweets themselves and, through natural language processing, generates a short summary for the event cluster alongside other helpful indicators.

Find out more about the process and methodology behind Reuters News Tracer and how is helps to filter through the noise of social media.

 

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