We all have a role to play in responding to misinformation: #NavigatingtheNews Conference

“As we increasingly go online we are confronted by propaganda, poor journalism, advertising masquerading as journalism… where is it all heading?” asked Joce Nettlefold, opening today’s Navigating the News conference in Hobart.

The conference is examining eroding trust in the media and the decreasing influence of journalism over the next two days.

Professor Rufus Black from the University of Tasmania challenged teachers to play a role in educating children about media literacy.
“There are time constraints and inconsistencies in the curriculum that makes it difficult for teachers, but they have an important role to play…
“There is a democratizing power that comes with social media when it is well crafted. It can reach and information intelligent public and help them engage in intelligent debate.”




Gavin Morris from ABC News articulated the distinction between news and journalism.

“Google is a news site, but it has no journalists, when you post a picture of your new baby on facebook that is news for your friends and family, but it is not journalism.

“There is a difference between news and journalism. There has never been a more critical time for the discussion about journalism, but we should not be too precious about whether something has gone wrong with news because, news is much broader.”

The recent prime ministerial spill was discussed in the context of journalism and news, and the role of media people in lobbying. Alan Jones has never claimed to be a journalist, but he still has a powerful influence on the news agenda and on political players.

Lisa Davies from the SMH said: “We have to get better at explaining that there is a difference between opinions and news. This is part of the problem that we have. People don’t know who to trust.

“We have to give people a reason to pay. For the Herald our investigations are very important. We are out there shining a light in dark places. Of course it has to be about the metrics, but it’s more than that, successful content has to be engaging for audience, to be important to them.”

Along with the old meida giants on the panel, the highly success new media platform Buzzfeed is also at the conference. Buzzfeed’s Simon Kennedy said:

We want our audience to trust us. We want them to believe that when they see one of our stories they can trust it. We are also focusing on underrepresented areas. It is amazing to me to see that the most important story – Indigenous Australians, has been under reported, so we have focused on that and we think we have changed the agenda.
“There was a culture of talking to insiders in journalism in Australia, we wanted to break that open. Our news is reporting for you, that’s our tag line. More people engage with our quizzes and food content, but that gives us money to engage in credible journalism and to build trust and credibility.”

Part of the discussion centered around making money on the new platforms to fund good journalism. There are many news sites which do not make a contribution to good journalism, they simply steal someone else’s work or make money from other companies’ journalism.

“The Daily Mail are just copying stories, they weren’t there. They are picking up trusted sources with a tiny credit in the story, but they are optimizing it better to get more hits and more money than the original companies that published the stories are doing.”

“The stolen journalism of the Daily Mail is profitable… if they did not get a return then they would not do it.”

Nicholas Gray from The Australian said: “The odds are that the 2030 Walkley winner is cutting their teeth in a regional radio station or a regional newspaper. It is really important that journos continue to be employed as cadets…

“We have never had more information about our audiences, but we have to think clearly about how we use that. The Australian now has a full ecosystem, not just print newspapers. We tweek the way that we express stories in each of those categories whilst keeping the intellectual bridge of The Australian across all those platforms.”

Gray made a good point that search engines should give higher priority to exclusives and to the news sources that break stories, but they don’t.

“It is important that provenance be given prominence. For example The Daily Telegraph broke the Barnaby Joyce story, but only got 6% of search clicks from that. Why does the organization that breaks an exclusive story get less prominence than others that pick it up and run with it, or just copy and paste it.

“There is a need for collaboration from media organizations to enage with these factors and to lobby for the important issues that affect us.”

Gavin Morris agreed, and suggested changing the search engine algorithm to reward good journalism and exclusive breaking stories by giving them a better rate of return for ad sales revenue. “When the revenue goes down from those that just copy and paste stories and goes up for those that break stories, those who steal our journalism will stop doing it, but until then it will still be profitable adn they will keep doing it.”

News Limited’s Campbell Reid said that media companies don’t have a trust problem, they have a visibility problem. The big tech platforms Google and Facebook don’t give fair visibility to trusted news publishers or to well researched journalism.

Claire Wardle

gave a deeply researched talk on the F word (don’t call it fake news) during the conference.



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