“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” says the quote by Mark Twain which speakers used as an introduction for a debate on journalism in a ‘post-truth’ climate at Difference Day. The event was hosted by the Centre for Fine Art (BOZAR) in Brussels on World Press Freedom Day (WPFD).
One of the five panels talked about the role of quality media in the context of the post-truth climate and especially, the role of investigative journalism. Speakers stressed that quality journalism is not just an answer but the answer to ‘fake’ news. In this context, journalists should also re-think their societal role: today they can’t be spectators they should be engaged in the battle for truth and democracy, they said.
According to Peter Cunliffe-Jones, “we are living not in a ‘post-truth’ but in a ‘post-trust’ era”. That’s why the media and fact checking organisations should try to involve readers in the process of fact checking and be transparent about their sources and methodology. Alain Lallemand suggested that the economic pattern could also change. He compared journalism with bio products pointing out that people tend to buy bio products because they know where these products come from and that they are of a good quality. The same thing happens with the news: people want to know where their ‘news food’ comes from.
Another panel tried to give more answers on how to fight ‘fake’ news. Experts shared their experience and discussed different ways technology can actually help the media instead of killing it as it is too often doing today because of the spread of ‘fake’ news on social networks and the monetization of big volumes of internet traffic.
One of the speakers, Ehsan Fadakar, head of social and third party strategy at Schibsted Media Group, presented research on the algorithms that had made Facebook so successful and dangerous at the same time. The problem, he said, is that these algorithms are ‘value-neutral’ and if someone is searching for illegal content, the algorithm will actually help guide them to 'more relevant' illegal content but which in the majority of cases is not recognised as illegal by Facebook’s automated processes.
Following this research, Ehsan Fadakar posed the question as to whether publishers can consider themselves as free and independent while Facebook actually controls their distribution. That’s why Ehsan Fadakar and his team have created a network working today in 30 counties and internet technology to build special platforms that will be ‘funding journalism’ instead of Google and Facebook.
Dragan Sekulovski, director of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM), an IFJ affiliate, also participated in a wide ranging debate touching on democracy, education and Europe.