It seems like fake news is everywhere you look and it runs the gamut from hurricane shark to websites full of blatant lies and clickbait. It’s no surprise that people are getting a bit wary about where their news comes from. What may be a surprise, though, is how wary journalists are becoming.
Journalism is, at heart, the pursuit of facts. In this day and age, though, journalists have to contend with a great many fake “facts”, a great many more biased ones, and ever-shorter deadlines fueled by social media and online outlets.
And journalists have every reason to be less than trusting of unverified information. Their livelihoods and reputations are on the line if they do get something wrong, and sometimes even if they just write something the public doesn’t like, while the need to get the story out before anyone else means far less time for the fine art of fact-checking.
We’ve all seen it happen. Earlier this summer, an elite team of reporters at CNN broke a story about a link between then-White House adviser Anthony Scaramucci and a Russian national named Kirill Dmitriev. All information about the meeting came from a single anonymous source. It went viral, but not for the reasons journalists would like: As we all know, the story the source gave them ended up being verifiably false. CNN issued a retraction, and three reporters were fired. Critics of CNN and the mainstream media had a field day.
As communications professionals, we are journalists’ sources. We provide them with interesting stories and useful information and they, often on very short notice, turn it around into useful articles. As such, it is absolutely vital that we provide actual verified facts, often with the proof attached. Better a pitch laden with details now than an incorrect story later, and better still to establish yourself as a credible source for whom it is worth the reporter maintaining the relationship.
It is not just the reputation of our journalist contacts and friends on the line. Our industry, our clients, and the media at large all depend on real, true news.