The following post is written by our AAJA Asia member, Yunita Ong.
Even as new-age digital tools emerge, the media industry mustn’t forget the value of good old-fashioned breaking news reporting in combating the threat of fake news.
That was a key takeaway at “Verify Your News in a Digital Age,” a panel organized by AAJA-Asia on 28 Oct 2017 held at Google’s APAC office in Singapore. Speakers included Samanthi Dissanayake, Asia Editor of BBC News Online; Timothy Go, host and editor of tech360.tv and Irene Jay Liu, news lab lead at Google APAC.
It was moderated by Mike Raomanachai, a senior reporter at Voice TV, and is the second event in AAJA-Asia’s weekend chatter series. Attendees were also treated to an hour-long Google workshop with tools and techniques about how to verify their news.
Attendees learned that “fake news” can really mean many things, running the gamut from information from those who meant no harm but were misinformed, or those with malicious intent knowingly sharing false information. The issue of trust in the media takes on its unique dimension in Asia because of the lower trust in the media here – Japan tops in the region with just a 43 percent score according to this year’s Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2017 Chat apps here are also a powerful medium through which fake news can spread.
Verification is a lot of work, and most people reading the news may not have the mental bandwidth or may be too busy to process and interrogate what they’ve read. That’s why it’s the job of the journalist to do so – and one rule of thumb is: if it’s too good to be true, maybe it isn’t. It’s human nature to confirm what you already believe in.
Those at the session urged fellow journalists to always verify by double-sourcing while paying attention to the context surrounding information one may get from sources. Holding off on publishing unverified news without official notification even if other news outlets are reporting it, such as in the case of a celebrity death, can also gain the news outlet long-term credibility.
There’s a fine balance, though – thanks to the digital age and how ordinary people can post about what they’re experiencing. it would be a disservice to readers to hold back on publishing events like a train breakdown or power outage.
Not all news is reported straight – those that have to have a point of view, such as reviewers, have to be upfront and declare as such to the consumer, while trying as much as possible to have fair reporting by keeping a China wall between sales and editorial, for instance.
Attendees were also urged to check out Firstdraftnews.com, a project of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center, for tools and techniques for online verification.