Letter to the Editor: ‘Fake news’ signals an erosion of trust

The relationship between news consumers and news producers has been damaged. What has caused this damage is not “fake news” in and of itself but the failure of some news producers to “police” themselves from “fake news.”

This failure is contributing to an erosion of trust between news consumers and news producers. In a research study performed by this author, 49 percent of the respondents said that they would change news sources if the news story was found to be made up or “fake news.” News consumers are more educated and aware of the dangers that have come from fraudulent news stories.

News consumers keep a watchful eye on news producers. In the same research study by this author, 40 of the respondents said that they would seek an alternative news source altogether when it was found that a news source had been compromised. This is an indicator from the news consumers that the news producers have a responsibility towards eliminating and removing “fake news.”

There is a constant threat to news consumers from “fake news.” One cannot ignore the possibility of the contamination of a news feed because of a possible infiltration of “fake news” within that feed. There are no limits to the amount of damage that can be inflicted. Even so, we are not just talking about laziness on the part of the news producers but what if there is some malicious intent that could be ascribed to news being faked? Especially as in the case with a foreign government, such as Russia, planting false stories.

If that malicious intent could not be identified and verified beyond a reasonable doubt, then this entire industry could suffer loss. Television, newspapers, radio, podcasts, tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, and Tumblr are just a few ways that everyday people find out about what’s going on around them locally or abroad. As media has changed over time, the methods in which everyday people obtain the information they need to navigate through life is fed to them by the media.

There is a relationship that exists between the media and those who feed off of its teat. No pregnant woman in their right mind would purposefully ingest poison into their food supply because they themselves don’t want to die and they know that whatever they consume is passed into the nursing child. The same type of relationship must be said to exist between the everyday consumer of news and the media platforms that serve those consumers.

The media, just like a nursing mother, must be responsive to the child and that response necessitates an analysis of the food that is being given to the child. If the mother is not responsive, it can cause an immediate breakdown in the relationship and feeding may be hindered or halted altogether.

Moving from this simplistic understanding of the nursing mother and infant child relationship to the understanding of the consumer versus the producer. If the producer is not responsive to the changes in what the consumer is consuming, it will necessarily result in the loss of a customer base. The media must maintain a level of trust with its customer such that those customers can completely rely on the accuracy and dependability of the product.

Failure to ensure this will result in loss of profit. Because of this loss, the industry is being pushed into a place of greater accountability. “Fake news” has been around for a long time. The media must not ignore the needs of their consumers. A failure to respond appropriately to their consumers has caused some news outlets and news sources to be considered less trust worthy and unreliable.

In a new demand for internet privacy, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to give an account for what his company did or did not do to contribute to “fake news.” Zuckerberg did not appear to take the news consumers’ point of view seriously. After he was called before Congress the stocks for Facebook went up. In November of 2016 Zuckerberg said the following in a post on Facebook, “We take misinformation seriously. We take this responsibility seriously. We’ve made significant progress, but there is more work to be done.” This statement was enough to rebuild faith in Facebook.

Nothing gets people on the edge of their seats and foaming at the mouth like the mention of “fake news.” In this age, where one’s access to news is as easy as clicking a mouse, flipping through your smart phone, or browsing through your favorite web page, one must be a wise consumer of the news.

This ease of access and the need to keep consumers coming back to your page has increased the demand for on the spot information. The “good ole days” of blind trust on the part of the news consumer has been erased. News consumers are refusing to trust every news story that is out there.

With the hurriedness of news cycles and the ease of reporting, the opportunities to misstep or not takes steps that would ensure the accuracy and validity of the information have increased. It is for this reason that unintentional lapses in follow-through be eliminated.

The news producers who do not maintain their high standards and ethical practices will find themselves labeled and push to the side of the news cycle. When partaking of the news you must treat the experience with the same level of diligence and scrutiny as if you were purchasing an automobile. The information that one comes across must be evaluated and judged for content as well as credibility.

Failure to take on a heightened sense of vigilance as a news consumer in this regard can open one up to a diet of fraudulent and erroneous tidbits of information that could cause one to formulate and even advance a wrong and uninformed opinion on some very important life matters.

Christopher Gore

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