Journalistic integrity is not a new concept. “Fake news”is not a new concept either. Although the movie “shattered glass” was released in 2003, and the subject of the movie worked from 1995–1998, the effects of Stephen Glass’ are still felt in the journalism industry today.
A study conducted by Axios earlier this year shows that the percentage of Americans who say they have a “great deal” of trust in television news has gone down 35% since 1993, and those who say they have that same trust in newspaper news has gone down 15% over that same time frame.
I personally believe that the entire idea & concept of citizen journalism has played a big factor in this as well, with the way social media has skyrocketed in popularity the past 10–15 years, anybody with a phone and a twitter account can become a “journalist” and share whatever they believe to be news and fact.
You see this type of journalism a lot when it comes to politics or protests, and you’d have to look no further than the Summer 2020 to find the impacts, whether you believe them to be negative or positive, that type of journalism can have on a society.
In Verification using strategic ritual, they write that “The British study of Lewis et al. (2008 combination of interviews and content analysis found that fewer than half of the newspaper and broadcast stories studied made any apparent attempt to contextualize or verify information, with 87 percent based on a single primary source.”
That figure needs to be 100%. As nice as it may seem to trust what people are saying when they say it, skepticism is an extremely important part of journalism and I think all journalists should realize that it is okay to be skeptical when verifying information and facts.
I think a good way to combat this really is by getting more involved in storytelling with the communities around you as a journalist and broadcaster. Now I recognize that doing national stories and even international stories don’t make that easy, but connecting with your local community can greatly improve that connection between journalists & citizens.
An underrated component of community storytelling is crowdsourcing, which you see in chapter two of our textbook, “Community-centered journalism,” that citizens in communities want to have a voice when it comes to storytelling.
“Residents (in south Los Angeles) participating in that study had been vocal about wanting there to be more opportunities for community members throughout the process of story production,” the textbook says.
I think this process helps find a better balance between citizens and journalists in the community, because this way it’s not exclusively the journalists doing the production but also not exclusively citizens doing the journalists job, and it builds back that trust between the two which has been lacking for close to 30 years now.
Touching back on the idea I brought up earlier about the way social media has affected the journalism industry, it’s not just citizen journalism that has been introduced and affected the way things are. Take the social media app Twitter, for example.
On Twitter, there are thousands and thousands of individuals with a blue checkmark next to their name, which means there are thousands and thousands of individuals, who aren’t even real journalists, can tweet anything at any time and present it as fact. The fact that it comes from a “verified” account makes it that much easier to believe, and thus that much easier to spread news that might not even be real at all.
Now look, I get it, not all journalists out there are looking to spread fake news, or make things up. Not every journalist is going to be Stephen Glass. But to the citizens, and people who already might have a perceived lack of trust in the industry anyway, journalists like Glass are the norm, and that’s not okay.
It won’t be an easy fix, but like the interview we watched with Peter Alexander, we as journalists have to realize that doing our job is not about us, it’s about the stories that we share. It will take time, but if every journalist has that mindset, we can go back to building a connection and trust with those we do this for — the people.