Malaysiakini Opinion

Fact-checked journalism must endure

Eric Loo  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | If the media are to be socially constructive, they must rely on the journalist’s intelligent understanding and reporting of issues. This can only come about if journalists are themselves intelligently informed.

That’s the basic premise of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (Unesco) seminar on media training in Kuala Lumpur in June 1973.

Journalism has changed radically since then - from the makeup and digital literacy of the readers to the multitasking required of journalists to write for a newspaper and produce an online package for the same story on the same day.

Journalists are no longer the main purveyor of news. Readers are now able to circulate their version of the same story on social media sites, which add another level of complexity to today’s journalism – the tussle between “journalistic truth” and “fluid truth”, “real news” and “fake news”. Do we even care about the truth these days?

The line separating “truth” and “falsehoods” is constantly shifting, depending on who you ask.

And, the difference between real and fake news is unclear - so vague that “fake news” has become a catch-all term to mean anything that we don’t like, particularly information that strikes at our core values.

US president Donald Trump has appropriated the term to demonise the media that are hypercritical of his presidency. Trump has wilfully engaged in deceptive political tweets to mislead and disinform, as do many conspiracy theorists.

Rookie and poorly trained journalists are not immune to the fake news phenomenon either. Journalists do misinform when they report inaccuracies because they did not do their research or quote a source out of context.

But when sources knowingly circulate false information and dress it up to look like real news to mislead and manipulate, that’s disinforming.

That’s pandering to the inherent biases we hold of particular issues and people. Herein lies the “fake news” menace – to deceive for political ends....

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