Journalism versus Alternative Facts

Computer Eyewear by Michael Saechang licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Journalism in the social media era has seen its share of highs and devastating lows. The game has changed but the story remains the same. So why is journalism struggling in the age of social media?

Through out the election and currently during the first couple of weeks Donald Trump’s presidency, people have questioned the credibility and integrity of journalism. I think people are disingenuous here because the real problem here is that it is harder more than ever to know what real news is but are we as journalists part of the problem?

Alternative Facts reign supreme in the age of social media.

Fake news headlines and digital advocacy advertisements with false facts dominate every Twitter feed or Facebook timeline. We really can’t filter or control what is put out there by others but we can control our content and as journalists we may have allowed this problem to get worse.

There was a recent incident were a journalist picked up a story from a twitter post about a shooting at a mosque that claimed to expose two white supremacists as the shooters. It ran on the Daily Beast soon after. Little known to the writer, the names he picked up came from a parody twitter account. This is just one of many similar stories of fake news being reported as real news. Take for example the Bernie Sanders photo debacle. Journalist Jonathan Capehart wrote a piece for the Washington Post claiming that a photo of Sanders at a civil rights sit-it protest was not Sanders. Only that a little research would prove otherwise. The article is still up on the Washington Post page without a redaction or apology.

Now, sure mistakes happen but when journalists and news media are supposed to be reliable sources, we cannot afford to make these mistakes. Social media has allowed us update constantly and live stream from anywhere in the world. We are forgetting one of the crucial things about reporting and that is the facts. Factual errors presented as truth are now the norm. Alternative facts are currently the buzzwords. Journalism is partly to blame for this; we allowed this to happen by not abiding to our own principles.

We live in an era that the public can express their opinion, dissatisfaction and downright lack of trust from their mobile phones. It is no surprise that we know journalism is in trouble if things do not change.

Journalism is at a crossroads right now, adapt or disappear.

If we are to survive in the digital age of social media, we have to be fast but we also have to be right. Now and days, journalists are fighting an uphill battle. When alternative facts reign supreme, we cannot lose sight of our obligation as journalists. We have to find a better way to deliver quality and engage our audience in the age of Facebook and Twitter. While the industry is scrambling to find a solution, that may not be too hard to come by. We need to rely on our tried and true fundamentals. Discussions have risen about the possibility of building journalistic professionalism. Similar to what professionals undergo on a postgraduate program. It is definitely an interesting thought and a great read.

We have to start rebuilding journalistic credibility.

It is important for us as journalists to maintain our integrity; we have an ethics code to abide by, yet it is currently being ignore. It is time to regain the trust and credibility. No matter how technology advances, the real solution is to be accurate, transparent, honest, impartial and fair. Old school rules that still apply in the modern age.