Like many, I miss good old-fashioned journalism and reliable news reporting. What has happened to the craft and the industry that I rely on to do my job as a public relations professional? Some would say media professionals have lost their objectivity. Others would say journalists are no longer dispassionate or emotionless about what’s being covered—that their bias and personal opinions get in the way of reporting just the facts.
So, is news media and journalism as a profession in a state of emergency? Maybe I won’t go that far. However, I do believe integrity and credibility are on the line.
The reality is, news reporters are accused of exemplifying bias daily (whether it’s justified or not), causing the reliability of the media industry to decrease substantially. Audiences have been chanting the mantra of fake news to discredit information they do not like.
Couple this with the rise of digital technologies, which has ushered us into a new age, an age filled with a wealth of information at our fingertips. It revolutionized the news media industry along with the field of journalism very quickly. Technology has also lowered the start-up costs for launching independent media outlets . . . thus opening the door for millions to set up shop and distribute their version of the “news” to millions in just seconds.
While the free flow of news and the ease of sharing information is empowering, it poses serious implication. It can be dangerous if those whom we rely on to report objective, unbiased news blur the line between fact and personal opinion.
With so many news outlets, both online and offline, people have lost the ability to discern fact from fiction (myself included). Trust in the media is at an all-time low. The worry of false or fake news is not just a question for journalists, it should be a concern for all public relations professionals as well. We partner with the media to inform, educate and share stories about our clients.
So, what role can PR professionals play to help maintain the integrity and trustworthiness of information. . . which in turn helps to rebuild trust in the media and journalists who write and report the news? By sticking to the fundamentals of public relations is a great start.
Here’s my take:
Be precise when sourcing data
Professional communicators must push their clients to be transparent. The foremost reason why audiences don’t trust the news right now is that the journalists tend to use unidentified sources in their pieces. The information shared on behalf of our clients must be verifiable and able to be fact checked by the media to ensure corporate claims and brand promises can stand up under scrutiny.
Distinguish between reputable and disreputable news sites
Placing news broadcasts or advertisements in fake or disreputable news sites will eventually prove counterproductive. Seek out reputable news sites and magazines to work with. Do not support news sites that publish so-called fake or fictional news. Communicators and PR professionals can help navigate people away from false publications by pitching to news outlets that are conservative as well as reputable. You can also employ a media monitoring tool for online media and the social web to detect inaccurate and made-up news.
Cautiously post news on social media
Though social media has increased its efforts to boost news literacy, it is difficult to control the movement of misinformation. So, when sharing news, fact check and make sure the articles are from a reliable source. Social media may not be able to stop the spread of fake news, but you certainly can.
Respond immediately to counter misinformation
Fake news and misinformation can spread like a wildfire, so you need to counter it immediately. One way to stop misinformation from spreading is by subscribing to real-time alerts. This will immediately inform you when your company, products, or other keywords are mentioned online. If you find false information, you should voice the discovery. The most important thing is to share factual news, rather than repeating falsehoods.
Lack of public trust in news media harms PR practitioners’ ability to distribute and promote client messages. We can neutralize that trend with validity, transparency, advanced media monitoring tools, and immediate response to false reports.
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