Real News and Fake Problems

News in all forms faces a real problem as fewer people are able to tell the difference. Everyone is caught now and then sharing something that referenced a source that was less than accurate.

The Facebook Solution

Facebook's initial response to accusations of spreading "fake news" were pretty appropriate. While Facebook plays a part in the distribution of content, they are not the sole source of the problem. After continued political pressure, Facebook has proposed a solution where a committee of experts will evaluate the validity of the content and sources.

The problem with any authoritarian system is that eventually, whether gradually or suddenly, humans drift toward corruption and bias. This is why checks and balances are put in place, usually referred to as watchdogs. 

Encyclopedia Britannica

When you want to find a simple but fact-packed reference page on a subject, do you visit Encyclopedia Britannica? You might, but you probably start by searching Wikipedia, and maybe branch out from there with general web searches but probably not a second encyclopedia. 

When Mainstream Media Fails

Mainstream media hasn't been doing a great job. Publications that used to lead in culture, finance and arts have become click-bait echo chambres. 

Too Big To Categorize A or B

Many publications, old and new, rely heavily on editorial content. I have nothing against editorials, this article itself is one. But large publications often include many types of content, maybe even advertorials. Large newspapers will often all receive the same article from head office. Other articles come in through syndicated feeds from sources like Reuters, Associated Press and Canadian Press. Authors may write for different publications at the same time.

So now we're looking at the parent organization, the new organization, the author and the type of content. Then there is the temptation to assign weight to demographic values: economic group, political leaning, skin colour, identified gender, age, occupation. And perhaps go further and view the opinions of all their friends. Once this system is built, the results could be integrated with other services.

The problem with news is that there is often a lot of grey area between accuracy and persuasion. Sometimes articles have mostly true information but get one fact wrong.

The Power Of Reporters

This whole predicament puts professional reporters in an interesting position. Assuming that a system more nuanced than "hot or not" is implemented, reporter credibility and impartiality could once again become extremely valuable. There is clearly an increasing desire for trustworthy investigation, as well as a mistrust of mainstream institutions.

Here is an opportunity for reporters to become sought-after champions of truth and objectivity.