The attack on the Capitol is evidence that fake news is toxic to our democracy and has very real, even deadly, consequences.
So honored to co-host the AFC-USA 2020 Scholarship and Honorary Awards Ceremony and to share my thoughts on the challenges facing the news industry in the era of COVID-19.
Humans are storytellers. We like narratives that take the random chaos of life and put it into a coherent structure. The alternative is too difficult to live with: a world where nothing adds up to anything, nothing results from anything else, and people are just free-floating organisms in a sea of other organisms with nothing to connect them.
Journalistic writing is direct, concise and precise. As “Elements of Style” says: “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
Reporters are intrinsically skeptical of all sources–eyewitnesses included—for good reason. At the same time, they are also hugely dependent on sources for their reporting and dare I say, their very livelihood.
Remember, not everything is Google-able, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth verifying. Fact-checkers keep an arsenal of resources in their tool belts: a telephone, publication databases and a box of colored pencils.
Loaded language should come with the warning, “Handle with Care.” This term refers to words and phrases that induce a strong emotional response and carry a positive or negative connotation beyond their literal meaning.
To answer that question, you have to go back to 1996 and what’s known as the “26 words that created the internet.”
It’s true that “making up names” for anonymous sources might be a good narrative device to help the reader see a source as a three-dimensional human, but a journalist is in the business of telling the truth.
The use of anonymous sources in journalism has always been a thorny but widespread practice. News consumers don’t like them because they are deprived of knowing who is making that statement, claim or charge. Journalists don’t like them either but view them as a necessity, particularly in matters of national security when sources are loath to go on the record.