Wanted: Credible news in an era of self-publishing & fake facts

Wanted: Credible news in an era of self-publishing & fake facts

Twitter is up to 313 million monthly active users. Facebook has 1.86 billion.

Such self-publishing platforms, and others like Medium and Reddit, are continuing to grow. But, are these types of unfiltered communication networks suited for news?

When you consider that 62 percent of Americans get their news on social media, you’d hope so. However, the rise of fake news (and its more viral nature on social platforms), especially in the lead up to and wake of the U.S. presidential election, may be inciting a shift in consumers demanding more credible news from viable sources.

Surge in newspaper subscriptions

In the past few months, newspaper subscriptions have seen a surge – both in print and online.

Take The New York Times, for instance. The news powerhouse recorded 276,000 net quarterly growth in Q4 of 2016 for digital subscriptions, as well as a continued surge into 2017. And, in a tweet that included the growing, celebrity-backed #PressOn campaign hashtag – which encourages the support of facts by paying for journalism – the Times also reported that its total digital and print circulation doubled in 2016 to 3 million.

Mark Thompson, Times president and CEO, attributed its significant subscription increase to “a dramatic increase in the willingness to pay for serious, independent journalism.”

Other subscription surges have also been reported at The Wall Street Journal (300 percent subscription increase), LA Times (60 percent), Hartford Courant (29 percent), The Atlantic (160 percent) and many others.

And, while perhaps in reaction to President Trump’s threats against free press and the First Amendment, it’s clear that these subscription surges reflect an outcry for more credible news from credible sources.

Role of the editor

One of the chief aspects of a newspaper that gives it such credibility is its editors.

The knowledge that someone is behind a desk, questioning, fact-checking and demanding multiple sources for articles before they are published can be very reassuring.

Reuters’ handbook even provides guidelines noting that two sources are always better than one, and that stories based on anonymous sources should have a minimum of two to three sources. Additionally, stories based on a single, anonymous source must be given special approval by a supervisor; and rumors must be, at least, double-sourced.

Or sourced nine times?

A recent Washington Post article about then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia was lauded for having nine sources, which the Post stands behind. Media influencers everywhere from The Boston Globe, New York Times and Morning Joe to Propublica, WIRED and NBC all seemed to applaud the well-sourced piece, noting its credibility.

Beyond source guidelines and other behind-the-scenes roles, editors are now also coming to the fore. Publications like the New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg and Reuters have all been naming editors alongside journalists, either in the byline or at the end of the article.

Giving this added layer of accountability and credibility may well be something we start to see more of (even from the notoriously anonymous Economist?) as society continues to strive for factual reporting, after being scorned by so much fake news.

PR pros need to be clients’ editors

On the corporate side, with brands increasingly self publishing on owned platforms as a key content marketing strategy (like Red Bull’s Red Bulletin, Adobe’s 99U, Qualcomm’s Spark Platform and American Express’ Open Forum, to name a few), it’s the role of PR pros to be that credible editor, sounding board, source checker and more! for clients.

But, not only for owned content – for earned as well. Any facts, statistics, outside sources and additional experts that PR pros can provide to journalists when pitching a story may go a long way in helping that story get to the top of their list. And, it may help foster better relationships, too, since this level of research is seen as a real value add to media – enhancing your own credibility and reputation with a more credibly-backed pitch.

Meredith L. Eaton is a Vice President at March Communications, focusing on driving awareness and engagement for technology innovation brands in cloud, telco, security, infrastructure, AI and IoT markets. By aligning her clients’ business objectives with PR initiatives, Meredith has helped companies – from large, public brands to niche startups – execute business-critical, integrated campaigns to capture competitive market share and shift brand perceptions. Follow her on Twitter.

Photo via Pixabay

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