After spending a lot of time monitoring the media — particularly mainstream media with a liberal and a conservative bias — it’s clear that as a country, Americans can’t agree on facts.
Our intent is not to be political, though. The problem for journalists, the media, companies that rely on communicating via the media as well as the people who consumer the media is that: content designed to disinform is causing a credibility problem. (We realize “disinform” is not a real word but perhaps it should be. And we get the irony of using a made up word to discuss the implications of fake news. Also, there’s a real difference between disinformation and news with which one disagrees.)
As part of our list of ongoing predictions, we said we’re going to have a problem with a shorter news cycle combined with fake news, which is not going to fade away in 2018. This will get worse as we get closer to the midterm elections.
So what can we do about fake news?
Facebook is altering its news feed, allowing users to identify sources they feel are credible. Google is also changing its algorithm.
And some are hoping that Congress should get involved and regulate (or try to) big tech or hope that big tech itself will adjust things to reduce the impact of fake news while also helping users weaken the hold of addiction of their products and services.
We don’t think those Congress will be affective here (not necessarily their fault; the companies on their own aren’t able to figure out a way to improve their credibility).
One solution we’d like came from Jeffrey Herbst, president and CEO of the Newseum, in a Wall St. Journal op-ed column, “How to Beat the Scourge of Fake News: Facebook and Google can’t do it alone. Better educating consumers is crucial” in Dec. 12, 2016.
That seems so long ago, it might hardly still be relevant.
Herbst notes something important:
This is hardly the first time that fake news has been controversial. The “yellow journalism” of the late 19th century featured fake news, false interviews, and an obsessive focus on crime
His solution to fake news is to:
Teach media literacy to millions of students…They become better citizens by learning how to discern what is true and what is not on social media by analyzing sources and making evidence-based arguments.
We don’t see this as a 100 percent solution by any stretch. But it is more effective than posting a list of apparent fake news as was done, recently, much to the humor of late night comedians.
Check out the article, and let us know if you have additional suggestions.
It’s important for journalism, for public relations professionals — and most of all, for our country.