News & Opinion

Industry leaders come together to discuss fight against fake news

The World Media Group’s ‘The Rise of Populism’ panel was a response to questions on fakes news and how to keep public trust in established news companies.

The panellists called on the industry to push for transparency and reliability for both news consumers and advertisers alike. 

With more consumers and public figures becoming sceptical towards digital platforms’ capacity to provide reliable information, “the game is really up for the platforms” said Forbes’ Alex Wood. “[With] the capacity they have to influence opinion and to change the world, they have to be held to the same standards”.

However, to ensure that news consumers had access to true information, the presence of quality journalism on the ground was critical, said Hazel Baker from Reuters.

Baker said: “Misinformation spreads when there’s an information vacuum or when people are scared. This happens when there is no quality journalism around, quality journalism must continue”.

Panel members also saw advertisers as key stakeholders in the issue of fake news. For the Wall Street Journal’s Phillipa Leighton-Jones, the rise of fake news is a key reason for brands’ reluctance to invest in traditional media advertising. 

“Advertisers don’t know where to go. So much fake news about Trump that we don’t put any articles next to Trump, or Brexit, or pizza, because there’s an unintended consequence of that being there” said Leighton-Jones.

She added that the media industry needed to work with advertisers in order to make them feel more comfortable, but also to ensure that the stories they are wanting to tell in their advertising fit inside a quality journalistic environment.

After the panel, Reporters Without Borders’ Rebecca Vincent was invited to present the organisation’s current initiatives. These included the International Initiative on Information and Democracy and the Journalism Trust Initiatives; both initiatives strive to develop frameworks that survive media digitisation, ensuring that the public can have trust in quality journalism over disinformation.

More importantly, however, Rebecca reminded the audience of the risks and sacrifices that journalists around the world continue to make to report the truth. In 2019, 49 journalists were killed worldwide, 57 held hostage, and over 300 detained. Deaths had increased in countries that news organisations had once thought were “at peace”; Vincent emphasised that journalists “cannot be complacent anywhere”.

The event echoed concerns made by Newsworks’ chair Tracy De Groose at the IAB’s Digital Trust Forum earlier this month, where she commented: “In a world of fake news, misinformation and propaganda, trusted journalism matters more now than ever before.”

Zainab Pirzada & Lewis Boulton 13/02/20

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