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Clickbait: Fake News and the Role of the State

Courtesy of Pedro Ribeiro Simões/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on 9 February 2017.

Synopsis

States all around the world are seeking to restrict the proliferation of ‘fake news’ to insulate their populations against messages that may destabilise their societies. But is the state the best entity to combat fake news?

Commentary

IN 2016, several populist politicians around the world gained power by drawing on the emotion and biases of their supporters. Many of these followers appear to have been swayed by fake news, not verifying the ‘facts’ that their leaders provide them. More worrying, the leaders themselves seem not to care about the veracity of what they are spreading. Fake news can present as websites that deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation purporting to be real news, and often using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect.

Some commentators fear that this is leading to a new normal where extremely biased views become the mainstream, thanks to fake news. These extreme views can cause divisions in society, foment unrest, and in some cases, lay the foundations for violence, such as the fake news that a pizza restaurant was operating a child abuse ring.

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Book Review: The Violence of the Image: Photography and International Conflict, edited by Liam Kennedy and Caitlin Patrick

Famous photographer James Nachtwey in the documentary movie “War Photographer”. Image: Christian Frei Switzerland/Flickr

This book review was originally published by LSE Review of Books on 10 November, 2014.

Recognizing the evolution of the nature of war, this book examines the role of photojournalism in representations of violence that accompany various modern and contemporary conflicts. The book, stretching eleven chapters, surveys the depictions of violence in photographic practice under (post-)colonial, complex humanitarian and cosmopolitan frameworks. Of note is the diversity of authors and the array of disciplinary lenses they represent. The book is relevant within a range of subjects as well as to practitioners. » More

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Journalists in Haiti: Rescue Workers, First Aid Providers, Action Heroes?

Delmas, Haiti, January 16, 2010 / Photo: AIDG, flickr

Delmas, Haiti, January 16, 2010 / Photo: AIDG, flickr

In the critical 72 hours following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the country lacked almost everything: drinking water, food, basic medical supplies, doctors, lifting equipment, power generators, you name it.

But what it did not lack were journalists. A who’s who of reporters from the great cable networks like CNN and MSNBC were on the ground within hours.

This is not a problem in and of itself, had it not been for the fact that the airport outside of Port-au-Prince was partly damaged and over capacity. This caused long delays for rescue teams trying to land there. Some planes providing aid had to be turned away.

Journalists were in many cases the first people from outside the island to venture into the devastated alleyways of the capital city. Many of them took on an active role helping locals to pull earthquake victims out of the rubble. One CNN journalist reported that he gave his granola bar to a starving earthquake victim.

What these journalists-turned-emergency-rescuers did during those critical hours following the earthquake is nothing but human. If you see suffering and are in the position to help, lending a hand is not only the natural but also the ethical thing to do.

Still, it is my guess that the residents of Port-au-Prince would have preferred to see rescue workers with chain saws instead of journalists with camera equipment coming their way.
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Global Media Forum Day 2: What is InJo?

GMF opening address by Director-General of Deutsche Welle Erik Bettermann / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

GMF opening address by Director-General of Deutsche Welle Erik Bettermann / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

Innovation Journalism” (InJo) – the word combination does not yield any Google search results before 2002.

The term was truly – and academically – introduced in 2003 by Stanford Professor David Nordfors, his main point being that journalism and innovation are each other’s driving forces.

Today at the GMF workshop offered by Stanford University, we took the concept of  “Innovation Journalism” apart.

How do we define journalism?

If you have a look at the Oxford definition of the word “journalist”, you find the message defined by the medium: newspapers, magazines, radio and TV. By offering such a definition we are bringing Marshall McLuhan back in, and we don’t necessarily want to do that. Strangely enough for our perception, the word “internet” does not appear in the Oxford definition.

Today’s medium is separated from the message, i.e. the content. A new definition of a journalist should refrain from this occupation’s relation with a medium and focus on the audience, Nordfors says. Journalism is all about offering issues of public interest to the broader audience.

And what do we mean by innovation?

Innovation is more than inventing. It’s the process of creating and delivering new value. As defined by Nordfors, innovation stops being exclusive and elitist. For him, innovation is a “language thing,” not a “tech thing.” It’s mostly about language, Nordfors argues, because any new product needs a name, a definition, a business model and a narrative. And all these things are made of pure words.

Innovation and journalism – the missing link

Innovation journalism can be understood in two ways: It’s journalism that covers innovation; but it can also mean journalism that is innovative.

Why is it important for journalists to cover innovation?

To answer this question, Nordfors builds a bridge between democracy and innovation. Democracy implements ideas in society, innovation plants ideas on the market. In the end, innovation also plays an important public role in shaping societal behavior. To exemplify this latter thought: the iPod is deciding how we will relate to music in the future. It’s not parliaments that decide that. The link between democracy, innovation and journalism is that journalism, according to Nordfors, is key for connecting the innovation economy with the democratic society.

And what is innovation in journalism?

To picture this, think of a refurbished newsroom. Traditional newsrooms use strict categories such as science, technology, business, politics and culture. Now, how would you categorize a story, appropriate to postmodern times, relating simultaneously to particle accelerators and modern ballet? Would such a story actually exist?The point is: innovative journalism should write such stories. Journalism crossing categories is innovative.