“You have to be very careful who you present as an expert.” This Media Analyst Gives 5 Ways Journalists Can Win Back Trust
“You can only control your world. Maybe you can’t save journalism yourself, but you can start by being an ethical journalist.”
I had the pleasure of inverviewing Jessa Moore, of Jessa Moore Media. She is a Media Analyst and Sourcing Specialist in the PR/marketing industry, specializing in New Media and Virality. She uses her deep media knowledge to work in the space between Journalism and Digital Media.
Thanks so much for doing this interview. Tell us how you got started in journalism.
I actually always wanted to be a journalist growing up. My family is part Northern Irish, and I grew up between the Northern Irish and Catholic Irish, and I was very conscious of The Troubles, the Civil War in Ireland. My father was a precedent setting attorney who ran the largest Independent Union in the country at the time. My mother did PR and was an Editor, so it was just part of my everyday. Justice and fairness were regular dinner table conversations, and we were expected to hold our own. He never really saw me as a kid, and I was his assistant as a teenager. I originally wanted to be a combat journalist, and won several Leadership Awards in Future Media.
I became an actress really young, and was working in a career I loved. It wasn’t until I was in a bad car accident that I became interested in how Social Media impacted us as a culture that I actually started taking my Media work seriously. I went to Hunter College, which has a really good New Media Program. My concentration was journalism, and I worked with Eleanor Clift there, who was absolutely my idol after we finished. She had been the Newsweek White House Correspondent for fifty years, and really was a pioneer-she was plucked from the Steno Pool, and brought her kids with her to work. I wanted to bring women into Media, and it was just amazing. Very inspirational. I did projects on Hillary Clinton’s emails, Hurricane Sandy, and INCELS several years ago.
Prior to the Media Program, I studied International Relations, and Neuropsychology. As an actress, I used a lot of Behaviorism, and it translated to online behaviors. I basically geek out over online cultures. Fake News became an interest, in terms of Security. I look at a lot of what is going on in our Election cycle, and can trace it back through a mix of misuses of digital info. It is really interesting. I also do PR/Media analysis for clients, which includes Startups. I have done this a long time, and have seen the changes Growth Hackers and Data Analytics have made to our view of the world. People are just really cavalier about Information. I see it as my job to protect my clients, and myself, as well as others from data abuses. I have guest lectured on virality at Hunter-it’s really interesting how ideas spread. I follow everything from Cambridge Analytica to Kylie Jenner. I sound really nerdy, but I also am a Beauty Influencer. Actually-I take that back. That’s really nerdy.
How has fake news impacted journalism in 2018? Has it changed your day-to-day process as you craft stories?
I am really careful when addressing articles or clients or even social media on how I approach Narratives. Storytelling is everything. Information is weaponized on social media, from Far Left to Far Right-everyone is fact checking each other, everyone’s an expert, and everyone is noisy. It’s my job to weed out facts and narratives and experts, and contextualize them. This is a real problem when a blogger from nowhere is given the same weight as the true experts. I have seen people talking about ISIS as experts when they don’t realize they are talking to someone in the NYPD CounterTerror Division-this isn’t a big deal when you are talking something subjective, like the best lipstick, but when you are talking real facts that impact Elections, safety, health….we have all seen the stories of cancer patients on Instagram touting cures, then found out it was fraudulent-well-people die from that. They die from the belief that someone is being cured with supplements. I am very careful to present info, and very careful to tailor each response so that the person listening to me has the best chance of understanding what I am telling them. It’s a lot of backstory, to be honest. It’s not easy, and you have people who are so distrustful of anyone in “the media” that they will literally swing back the other way, and we also live in an era where conspiracy theories are mainstream.
People are absolutely bombarded with information. I try to fight that now, and so do many journalists I know. As a matter of fact, I think we will have a surge of media people really being firm and supporting each other- I see complete changes in narrative, where info is presented more directly. This is because we have so little time to make an impact, attention spans are short. It’s a fight. I had to really grow a thick skin over the past three years-especially since most people really don’t totally grasp my role in media. Every person creating media or contributing has a footprint. I try to make sure that I maintain a huge base of context, so that I can look at every story from every angle.
Across nearly every topic, people are trusting the media less, according to a Gallup poll. As a journalist, what steps do you take to communicate trust and credibility in each story?
The key is clarity in your presentation of your story, and you have to be very careful who you present as an expert. If you are writing on something sensitive, you really need to have impeccable sources. You need to vet, and you also need to be super protective of your word- this is an arena where your client is not only benefitting from the exposure of the article, but they are also opening themselves up to aggression from readership. This is true of nearly everyone at this point. I am currently following Meghan Markle’s story-her father will not stop trashing her and trying to reach her through the press. We see it with the Political posts, as well. Families no longer speak due to differences of opinions over the President, the Election, viewpoints, you name it. We have people arguing over facts, hard facts. It’s bizarre.
What projects have you worked on that were particularly challenging from the credibility perspective, and why?
I think everyday my projects, especially my social media work, is challenging. I have worked in this sphere for years, and have worked on some very cool projects, but much has been under the radar, out of necessity-Startups are a rarefied world, and I wanted to be sure I had the knowledge base to truly understand this world. I think at this point, the Russian Collusion story is big. It’s really interesting to see entire segments of a population claim that nothing happened, and there is no evidence. At the same time, we have statements, official statements coming out from Mueller. Regardless of your Political affilition, there’s just a severe lack of trust. I think most people don’t truly understand the damage done when the act of journnalism is undermined. It is a check and balance of powers. It doesn’t help anyone-most people just lack context. I will probably get hate mail for saying that.
How do you ensure your sources contribute to the credibility of a story? What tools do you use to record in-person and phone interviews?
I maintain relationships over long periods of time. You can weed out bad sources by knowing them well, by the way. Anyone can maintain a facade over a day, but over 3 years is hard. I try to find several people in the same sphere, I talk to people I trust, fact checking, I look at online presence, I look at records…you name. But listening is a huge skill. Listening without being defensive. I actually usually start with conversations, then move to emails, to have a record. Cross checking is key.
Many people question whether supporting facts and evidence are true. How do you present them as trustworthy in your work?
That’s the challenge. I get the best experts I can, I fact check, I know my subject matter….but you will always find people who won’t listen because it doesn’t fit THEIR narrative. In that case, you just keep doing your work-it can’t matter. But bullet proof your work by knowing your content, knowing your sources.
Journalism is not an easy job. With pressure to hit deadlines while producing attention-grabbing stories, how does your process also build trustworthiness into your stories?
I think it all boils down to knowing your subject, and who the players are in that field, regardless of whether it is cybersecurity or mascara.
What tools help do you use that help make life as a credible journalist easier?
I am obsessed with my iPhone, my tablet, and laptop-you really need a great phone with a great camera.
As an experienced journalist, what advice would you give to young journalists who are building a reputation?
Strategize. Know the ENTIRE Industry. Find your spot by approaching people to be mentors. Be curious. Learn something every day. Be obsessed.
What are your 5 ways journalists can win back trust in journalism?
- Be impeccable with your own integrity. You can only control your world. Maybe you can’t save journalism yourself, but you can start by being an ethical journalist. You will be challenged with your choice of career-but you really need to keep it moving.
- Find your Tribe. I am so lucky that more experienced people have taken an interest, and my fellow media people can make a bad day better by just sending a message of encouragement.I send at least 3 a day. People are discouraged, and it can mean much more than the time it takes. People like to be noticed.
- Stand your ground. Don’t publish anything you can’t stand behind. Because you will be told what to publish, and this field is filled with people wanting online presence. Vet everyone. everyone.Vet your mother if you feature her recipes.
- Write everyday. Write what you know, research what you don’t, read newspapers and sites. Research where you want to be. You want to cover Women’s Entrepreneurship? Befriend up and comers, like Iman Oubou-she’s great, her site is awesome, and she’s real. Support her and other Independent sites. News is found where the passion is, and SWAAY is a passion project.
- Info share-create a pod of people who you want to work with, and build a relationship. I have a core of 5 true supporters in the Influencer space, and we are IRL friends. It is the best. We talk about life AND work.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I want to make a group of people who want the world to be better for everyone. You can argue about injustice, corruption, negativity, but when people band together, magic happens. I want a less rigid hierarchy of access to information. I want people to think before they decide something is a fact. I speak in emoji and memes, but I also know where it all comes from.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote and how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life happens when you make other plans”
I have not had a linear career path, and I am so grateful, because this is a very exciting time to be alive. We get so caught up in the doom and gloom of news and social media, that we forget that life has it’s own path. I don’t talk about it much, but I had several disasters-my mother died of cancer after a decade long battle, I was in a horrendous car accident, I lost my home in Sandy-so nothing really was planned-but I learned to trust my gut, and if you follow your own personal North Star, it will take you home. I lost a lot, but in the recovery is where I found my mission.
This was incredibly insightful. Thank you so much for joining us!
This interview is part of an interview series by Tommy Flaim, Product Manager of TapeACall, the original iPhone call recording app. You can check it out at tapeacall.com.