NEWSNEXT 2021: 'The viewer wants the journalist to tell them what is right or wrong'
Panel discusses ways to curb the rapid dissemination of fake news which has hampered the credibility of journalism
At the NewsNext 2021 Conference, which was held on April 3, 2021, industry leaders gathered to discuss various facets of news and the changes being witnessed in the world of news.
One of the discussions was about the blight of news channels peddling disinformation in order to grab eyeballs. In a session moderated by Padma Shri awardee and former EGI President Alok Mehta, Rohit Sardana, Executive Editor, Special Projects, Aaj Tak; Brajesh Kumar Singh, Managing Editor, Network18; and Madhuri Kalal, Deputy Executive Producer, ZEE Media Corporation Limited; discussed ways in which the malaise can be addressed.
Mehta commenced the proceedings with the downsides of disseminating disinformation which includes violence. “The government and the media can tackle this issue together.”
He went on to ask Sardana about the problems faced in evaluating the veracity of news and how one can tackle this problem.
Sardana said, “It is our effort to avoid a mistake while being swift. We have to understand this from two parts: breaking news runs news channels. There is a race to determine who will be the first mover of news. The second thing is fact-checking.”
He said that the India Today Group is a partner with International Fact-Checking Association and the channel has been accredited as well by them. “We are working towards making our checks and balances foolproof,” he said.
He said that the channel does 150 stories every month to debunk misinformation. He added that the team also debunks news which has ran on their own channels as well. “The upshot is that Facebook has taken down several posts because of our stories and it leaves a dent in the business of those who peddle lies.”
Mehta moved on to Brajesh Kumar Singh for ways to remedy the problem and the weaknesses. Singh said that the problem of fake news blots the entire journalistic community and not just the channel in question. He said the magnitude of disinformation must be understood first in the context of the technological changes in media in the last two decades.
Singh said that the information has been democratized because of digital platforms but it has also thrown up a lot of challenges. “Social media is a part of the digital ecosystem and fake news gets disseminated easily there. In early days, print was easier to control but now everyone has access to information almost immediately. It is very difficult in this clutter to promote fact-checking.”
“We have to make our fundamental base strong by returning to our core values,” Singh averred.
He said that the Breaking News syndrome should not be allowed to run scot-free. “We must be in control. No one relies on mainstream media for raw news. Everybody gets their news from social media.”
He said that the mainstream media deals with opinions because of which the channels start interpreting facts on controversial matters through their respective personal position which leads to a crisis in credibility. “The community of journalists should honour their sense of responsibility in a better manner,” Singh concluded.
Mehta trained his focus on Madhuri Kalal and asked her thoughts on how one can avoid repeating the mistakes.
“In this business, it is important to gain trust as a brand and display credibility. No legacy channel will stoop very low for TRPs but for a younger channel, it is important to gain traction so they try to peddle breaking news without due diligence,” Kalal said. “We should go back to factual reporting. We are opinionated now as one channel depicts news from a particular angle and another will depict news from a different angle.”
She said it is the duty of journalists to show news with factual reporting. “News anchors should be well-researched and do ground reporting because it will instill a sense of responsibility among them.”
Mehta said that we are exhibiting signs of tabloid journalism as we are trying to be sensational.
Brajesh Kumar Singh said that the broadcast news is changing with each passing day because consumption patterns are changing.
“The importance of content cannot be stressed. The concept of appointed viewing is changing as people do not consume news at a fixed time,” he said. “Audience preferences have changed. People want to pay for content because of which you will see the scourge of sensational news being erased slowly.”
Sardana concluded that the definition of impartiality in journalism is changing. “The viewer does not simply want both points of view, he wants the journalist to tell them what is right or wrong.”
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