Positivity for the Fight Against Fake News

On the very night of the Cairncross Review’s release, key media industry figures convened to discuss the future of quality news in a changing media landscape, reports Mariella Brown.

The event tackled the headline question: “Can quality journalism survive in a world of fake news and social media?” It was hosted by the London Press Club and Newspapermakers’ Media Group and was staged in association with the Society of Editors.

The panel began by addressing the impact of fake news on quality journalism, highlighting how it is the one element of today’s media that a journalist has no apparent control over.

However, the concern over fake news posed a different angle for panellist Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship. For Ginsberg, the worry about “rules, restrictions and regulations hampering quality journalism” becomes more apparent when attempting to vet ‘fake’ and ‘real’ news.

A further consideration is the definition of ‘fake news’. Reuters’ Global Head of Multimedia, Jane Barrett subsequently took the opportunity to remind us, that as a result of Trump’s use of the phrase ‘fake news’ in common language:  “everyone can belittle journalism that you don’t like as fake news”. This thread wove its way through the debate – later resurfacing when panellist Polly Curtis raised the difficulty for media outlets to regain trust from the public. Curtis, formerly Editor-in-Chief of HuffPost UK and member of the Cairncross Review advisory panel, explained the issue that “people trust the stuff they agree with”.

These concerns were followed up by Chair Michael Hayman’s aptly probing questions into the role of tech companies in this sphere – asking the panel whether Facebook enjoys “all power and no responsibility”?

However, Ginsberg countered this with a reminder that social media is an evolving technology that we must deal with, urging us to consider “we need to, as a society, adapt ourselves to new technology”.

In response to the changing nature of our world, the Evening Standard’s Home Affairs Editor, Martin Bentham reminded the audience to remember the weight of the media’s track record in providing quality news. This theme resounded at the end of the debate with Curtis reminding us of a journalist’s responsibility to ‘true news’, rather than to vet the millions of potential sources of fake news that exist in the ether.

Ginsberg offered a slightly different definition, which asks us to find our loyalty to “not what is truth, but what is trustworthy”.

The debate drew to a close by offering a resounding emphasis on the steps that readers of news and journalists alike can filter through the information provided to us. Barrett argued that “getting to the truth is about getting out there and reporting, rather than taking what’s given to us.” From here, trust may be rebuilt.

Mariella Brown

Read London Press Club’s chairman, Doug Wills’s take on the success of the event on our blog here!