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Journalistic practices evolve to address misinformation and trust crisis

February 16, 2021 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Journalists strive to present fair and balanced reporting. If they do their job well, they become respected authorities of the subject matter. In today’s environment of fake news and misinformation, this is both extremely challenging and important. So, how can they best do their jobs and break through the clutter? How can they rise above noisy false rhetoric and rebuild consumer trust in the media?

To explore these critical issues, researchers Hong Tien Vu and Magdalena Saldaña conducted a nationally representative survey among U.S. journalists. The study examines how journalists are evolving their practices given the increased volume of misinformation. 

Evolving practices:

  • Double-checking sources more often.
  • Limiting the use of anonymity and identify source of information.
  • Including verification of information (i.e., data, raw footage) and incorporating into their content.

Importantly, journalists today offer increased transparency into their work. They want to connect with audiences on a new level of accountability. Harvard Kennedy professor, Thomas Patterson, offers similar insights in his book, How America Lost Its Mind. As Patterson states, “More harmful to our democracy is a cousin of conspiracy theories — misinformation. It also involves fanciful ideas about the actual state of the world, but it is far more widespread and a far greater threat.” Patterson believes journalists are gatekeepers of information. They have a responsibility to weed out false facts and call out false reports or unreliable sources.

The research from Vu and Saldaña demonstrates how journalists are trying to reengage with audiences to build trust by offering objective and accurate reporting. These efforts help to counterbalance the fake news and misinformation amplified on social media.

Journalists recognize fake news as a direct attack on our democracy. Their efforts in transparent practices are a helpful solution to curtail misinformation. Further, reporters with a strong base of online followers feel they have a responsibility to provide accurate information to their social media feeds. They also feel it is their duty to point out fake news and misinformation on social platforms.

This study offers an important understanding of journalists renewed focus on accuracy in the transformation of information. It illuminates opportunities for self-disclosure and social exchanges between the reporter and the consumer — be it a reader, listener, or viewer. This open exchange is vital in helping readers recognize quality journalism and premium publishers.

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