The world at large is talking a lot about #FakeNews right now. Most recently, an innocent man was accused of being the Las Vegas massacre gunman for several hours due to untrue news stories. It’s nauseating and devastating.
Even Pope Francis wants to talk about fake news. On Sept. 29, he tweeted that the focus for the Roman Catholic Church’s next World Communications Day will be fake news and journalism. A distortion of facts, a Vatican statement said, can have “repercussions at the level of individual and collective behaviour.”
Social media sites are getting a lot of flack for their role in fake news, with calls for more stringent safeguards on such sites. Others keep pointing their finger at the Russians. But the real antidote is media literacy — having all of us know what’s good journalism and building trust with our news sources (see infographic above).
Like the mantra of avalanche safety or backcountry camping (here), it’s about personal responsibility and working with the buddy system. You’ve got to make the effort to know the media terrain, and you should really only rely on people you know who have invested the time as well. Do the research to find media sources you trust, engage with them, and share with your friends.
Speaking of investing time, the paper in your hands is now eligible to get its learning permit. As of this edition, Moonshine Ink is 15 years old. A sign of growing trust is the ever increasing number of people who come to us with ideas, thoughts, and concerns.
My staff and I have spent countless hours meeting in coffeehouses or fielding phone calls to talk with someone about an issue important to them. We’ve found thick manila envelopes under the office doormat stuffed with public documents — more than a few times. Emails flood in about events and people worth celebrating. On the streets, we hear burning questions that keep rattling around in heads. That was the impetus, in fact, for our public-question column, You Asked, They Answered (here). The homeowner’s insurance story here is a direct result of people voicing their concerns, as is much of our reporting.
This decade and a half has taught me that longevity breeds trust. As with any relationship, it takes time for a community to trust a newspaper, a journalist. On the flip side, only immersion in a community gives a journalist the insight to complex issues. Knowledge and understanding aren’t overnight phenomenons.
Fake news is setting up volatile situations around the world. It’s up to all of us, today, on this Earth, to step up and support resources that are about digging deep, producing quality journalism, and spreading truth. Do what the Vatican said it wants to offer next May: Be a part of reflecting “on the causes, the logic and the consequences of disinformation in the media, and helping to promote professional journalism, which always seeks the truth.”