「People will have to think more critically about the information they consume and share.」
Fighting back with critical thinking and education
Business, politics, social discourse, international relations and more all rest on the assumption of shared, accurate information. But with "fake news" corrupting news coverage, we are now learning how that currency is being debased. The problems are driven by as yet unaddressed structural issues in media including digital accountability for the dominant market power of big technology companies and the failed business model and economic decline of many news and information outlets. If we are to have confidence in what we learn about the world and how it works, these structural issues require our attention.
In addition, both Russia and China have invested significantly in international media at a time when western newsrooms have faced significant cutbacks. With elections in France and Germany this year, both countries have expressed concern at Russian propaganda seeking to undermine public confidence in their political institutions. What is to be done? We should be in no doubt that without trusted sources of reliable information, and without the media pursuing public accountability, the democratic structures of western societies will fail.
The solution has to lie in our own hands. People will have to think more critically about the information they consume and share. Society needs to renew a commitment to media education, critical thinking and literacy. Surveys show the public is often unable to distinguish between well-researched news and information from reliable sources, PR, propaganda, advertising, activism or simply gossip or innuendo. And the merging of news and opinion has left many deeply confused between facts and assertion. If we all contribute to the environment the media reflects, then we all need to take greater responsibility for the consequences. We should place greater emphasis on transparency and accountability of media sources, on the use of evidence and data, and value rather than decry the diversity of views.
The former director of global news at the BBC, where he worked as a journalist for 30 years, Richard Sambrook is now a professor of journalism and director of the Centre for Journalism at Cardiff University.
This text is taken from our corporate Think:Act magazine on "Trust".
How much do you depend on trust?
The central theme in our Think:Act magazine is trust.
Take a look at the January edition of our thought leadership magazine Think:Act here: