|VNA Vice Director General Le Quoc Minh speaks at the meeting
With the theme “For a professional and innovative journalism”, the event has focused discussion on how to effectively deal with fake news and how to regain public trust with this context in mind.
Due to the fast development of social media, the role of journalists is changing. They are no longer the sole source of breaking news and their responsibility has extended to the verification of information being shared amongst the public. They are depended on to validate and analyse information, as well as help the public find what they need to know.
According to VNA Vice Director General Le Quoc Minh, journalists no longer control or decide what the public know. This is a major restructuring of the relationship between the public and media institutions.
There is declining public trust in news media reported across most of the regions in the world. The Edelman Trust Barometer reports for 2018 and 2019 revealed that 73 percent of respondents from around the world worry about fake news or false information being used as a weapon, with 59 percent agreeing that it is becoming harder to tell whether or not a piece of news was produced by a respected media organisation.
There is also widespread belief that fake news is appearing in mainstream press as well.
Nurini Kassim, Director of the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) and member of the OANA Executive Board, said that the rapid development of social media has brought about not only many positive changes, but also negative impact.
According to Kassim, the rising trend of citizen journalism has provided many stories of popular and public interest, but the veracity of the information can often be questionable and heavily biased or opinionated. This misinformation could then become widespread online and through social media. This lack of professionalism has its ramifications as, if unchecked, it could drag a society or even a country into political or economic instability and social unrest. This lack of accountability threatens the ethical reporting by the mainstream and traditional media.
According to VNA Vice Director General Minh, ‘citizen journalists’ often make mistakes that spread unconfirmed news as they rush to post information on social networks. Fake news can only be controlled by publishing information after it has been verified.
In the face of fabricated and counterfeit news reports, many news media brands are using the opportunity to show their unique added value as reliable sources of information and commentary. Various publishers around the world are struggling to compete with these new online platforms, while others are upping their game to produce high quality journalism, from long-form stories and analysis reports to virtual reality reportage and AI-supported messengers to interact with readers.
While maintaining the production of an influx of verified news articles in various languages, the VNA has been putting greater focus on analysis and in-depth stories, as well as constructive journalism solutions which only professional reporters and writers are capable of, Minh said.
Publishers, especially news agencies, have to maintain a sustainable trust with their clients and end-users, ensuring they return to mainstream journalism and are willing to pay for high-quality content, he added.
Minh noted that to win back and build up public trust, each agency and journalist must try their best to deliver outstanding service to citizens, not only for the purpose of selling a story or a newspaper.
Regarding solutions to fake news, Bernama Director Kassim said it is important for news agencies to have fact checking teams to examine and verify news before it is published.
“We should not compromise truth, accuracy, nor accountability for speed,” she said.