Fake news – the journalists’ perspective

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Fake news – the journalists’ perspective

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Fake news – the journalists’ perspective

Dr Glenda CooperCity University London@glendacooper


‘Fake news and the Public’ – Harpers’ Magazine“Once the news faker obtains access to the press wires all the honesteditors alive will not be able to repair the mischief he can do. An editor

receiving a news item over the wire has no opportunity to test itsauthenticity as he would in the case of a local report. The offices of themembers of The Associated Press in this country are connected withone another, and its centers of news gathering and distribution by asystem of telegraph wires that in a single circuit would extend fivetimes around the globe. This constitutes a very sensitive organism. Putyour finger on it in New York, and it vibrates in San Francisco.”


….that was written in 1925!substitute Facebook and Google for AP and it could have been written today


Journalists and Fake NewsThe history of fakeryJournalists as purveyors of fake newsJournalists as defenders of fact against fake news

Can journalists see the debate as an opportunity?Innovations for/by journalists to combat fake news


The history of fake news

Fake news has been around as long as people have spread information – 1200BC and Rameses the GreatTook off with 1439 and invention of the printing pressNew York Sun’s Great Moon Hoax of 1835Objectivity only really becomes a selling point in the last century or so


The change: fake news and the internetDistribution and cost - Unlike earlier, the cost of publishing (via Wordpress etc) and distributing (via social networks) approached zero

Audiences and Trust – Given these much lower costs, reputations are far more expendableLaw and regulation – Much lower costs, far more operators involved in exchanging information – and hugely difficult to regulate.


Seven types of fake news (Wardle, 2017)


Buzzfeed & Fake News in the US election


Facebook and Fake NewsDecember 2016, Facebook announced it was introducing a tool to allow readers to flag possible fake stories which the social media giant would then send to fact checkers to verify (Jamieson and Solon, 2016)

May 2017. Ahead of UK election Facebook places full page advertisements in newspapers in order to alert readers to signs of fake news on its site (Murgia, 2017). August 2017 Facebook blocks ads from pages which spread fake news


Not just individuals…..’cybertroops’ organised by governments (Bradshaw & Howard, 2017)


Could fake news be a good thing for journalists?Gives mainstream media a chance to show it has value based on’ expertise and ethics, engagement and experience’ (Beckett, 2017)New business model of fact checking, myth busting can be developedRenewed interest in media literacy


What should we be doingJournalists Curate betterBe truthful

Be transparentShow expertiseVerifyMedia organisationsFilter out fake news betterPromote media literacyGive the audience better indications of quality of contentEnsure those who report accurately are rewarded


Full Fact – useful for both journalists and audience


First Draft



Web-based data mining tool It will mine information, search and find connections through bringing together public data, search, and social media and other APIsExamples might include property, police, legal, company data, EU, World Bank, ONS, location based data, Google’s API and social mediaWill help both as a research tool and a fact-checking toolTo be tested in 30 newsrooms


Conclusions‘Fake news’ has had less purchase in the UK because of journalistic historyBut there has been a realisation that better verification, fact checking needs to be doneOpportunity for journalists/media organisations to benefit if they can present themselves as trustworthy and transparent



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