It has been a trending topic since the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Donald, among others have been trying to blow news organizations wide open and un-face them with claims that their stories don’t hold true, either through bad sourcing or deliberate attempts to create hype by twisting truth for the sake of more attention.
Granted, the story with Donald was most likely a campaign publicity strategy. If you attack the news organizations for being fake, of course they are going to dedicate air time to “trump” those claims in order to protect their reputation. As a result, Trump received free press time.
If you are a news company or any publication that disseminates information not only are you already accountable for telling the truth, but now you have to go through extra effort to prove yourself not guilty to the claims above, such as what CNN has done.
How do you stand out?
Get a sense of humor and make fun of fake news. When you do this, you put yourself on the public’s side and it positions you on the other side of fake news entities.
Provide more visibility on how editors are sourcing their stories and who those sources are. This strategy involves providing links to the sources for consumers to click into to give you accountability which can help solidify your reputation. For example, The Honest Company, previously mentioned on Launch! for their innovative business model, became successful because they did exactly this. They let consumers know precisely where they source their products, what they are made out of, and who they use as distributors so consumers can see the chain of countries, businesses and people they are supporting when they swipe their credit cards. The company has been extremely successful, breaking a billion dollars, as a result of this approach. This is a much more global and socially responsible view on running a business that news organizations can learn from.
There are currently no active press councils in the US to monitor news organizations adherence to standards. The last press council closed in 2014. Additionally, there are very few regulatory bodies to enforce news organizations to adhere to standards such as the FCC and FTC due to the nature of our First Amendment: Freedom of the Press. The regulations they do impose only cover so much territory, most of it protecting younger audiences from being exposed to harsh language or sexual references. There are however, third party organizations that try to bridge this gap.
Join a third party institution that upholds standards. Publications must take it upon themselves to prove that they can adhere to publicly defined and acceptable standards. There are organizations out there where publications can join such as the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) that can show the public that you are willing to submit yourself under inspection to prove you are upholding standards.
Hiring a public editor, or obudsman is another practice that serves this purpose. They ensure the publication they work for follows proper journalism ethics, points out when critical errors or omissions have been made, and serves at the public’s liaison. They keep the paper true to moral standards primarily through a featured editor’s page. The New York Times and ESPN have jumped on board by hiring their own public editors.
By publicly opening yourself to being accountable by the public through these 3 means as well as positioning yourself on the other side of fake news, you can come out ahead as a publication and boost your reputation for being a truthful, reliable source.