Social media? Journalism? Fake news?
A lot of people are talking about what news is. You should learn the facts. Your should understand journalism.
Public Narrative has a great place to start. Here are seven simple things you can do, to support journalism in our democracy.
1. Understand journalism is not just a job, it’s part of our democratic system. Our founding fathers knew journalism would provide a needed layer of checks and balances to our system of government. So, the First Amendment spelled it out. It prohibits Congress from making any laws to get in the way of — or otherwise impede our free press.
2. Be aware — understand the difference between news reporting, entertainment and opinion. A news reporter’s intent is to inform you. HBO’s John Oliver or Fox News’ Greg Gutfield may be informative, but their intent is entertainment. Commentators on MSNBC or Fox News may provide clear facts, but also may leave other facts out because their intent is to persuade you to a liberal/conservative side.
3. Demand news organizations be transparent. There are ethical standards and practices in journalism. Read the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. Its guidelines are one-page and will tell you what a journalist is supposed to do. Provide context. Get it right. Or my favorite admonishment: “Neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.” If you don’t like quotes from unnamed sources, call the outlet. Tell them. Be polite. But tell them the truth: “You want us to trust you? Tell us who said what.”
4. Don’t buy the rhetoric that just because it’s bad news, it’s wrong. Nowhere does it say, that a journalist is supposed to produce content everyone will like. Nor should a journalist OK a story with the people who are in it before it is published. The intent of putting protections for a free press into the Constitution was to ensure that truth is spoken without interference from those in power.
5. Be aware where your news comes from and support the source. Too many people tell me they don’t read the news at all. It’s just not true. Just because your news is delivered via social media, via a friend, does not mean that’s where it originated. Find out where the news you can trust comes from. Then support it, by subscribing, by promoting and by consuming.
6. Engage with your source of news. Keep journalists on track. Make news a participatory sport. If a news outlet gets it wrong. Tell them. Not by resorting to insults or being rude. Send a note, make a call. Tell them what they missed, who they should have talked to — expand their sources. Also telling them when they get it right. Tell them you appreciate the work. Take the time to say thank you. This is part of being in a democracy, supporting your front line.
7. Invite Public Narrative to lead a discussion on fake news and news literacy with your organization, school, church, mosque, synagogue or community group. We will come to you and we will do this for free. It’s our role in the democracy to help you. Here is more information.