Aly Colón is the Knight Professor of Media Ethics in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications at Washington and Lee University. Prior to joining Washington and Lee, Colón spent more than 30 years in journalism. He worked for a news service, daily newspapers, public radio, network television and a journalism institute. Most recently, he served as a Director of Standards & Practices at NBC News and Telemundo Network News. He held editing and reporting positions at The Seattle Times, The Everett Herald, The Oakland Press and Fairchild News Service. He also spent a decade teaching professional journalists about ethics and diversity at the Poynter Institute, a global resource in journalism. Editor of Best Newspaper Writing book, more than 400 pages of award-winning journalism used by journalists and university journalism professors. Colón has conducted newsroom training for more than 50 news organizations and has done consulting on diversity, ethics, writing, editing and leadership. He has been a media consultant and independent journalist, and has worked as a corporate communication manager.
The New Gatekeepers of News
News consumers today face a flood of fake news and information. Determining was fact and what’s fiction is increasingly challenging.
In the past, news organizations tried to determine the validity and veracity of information. Being trusted mattered to journalists.
But technology has democratized the process of making, or making up, news. The gatekeeping role legacy media once held now falls to all of us.
Journalists no longer decide what goes public. Information flows unchecked, filling websites, blogs and tweets.
It’s not that the old gatekeepers were infallible, or consistently apolitical. But in today’s technological world, we’re in the midst of an informational perfect storm. The equation I created to explain it is: Velocity + Volume = Volatility. The speed and the amount makes outcomes unpredictably dangerous.
Another concern is that some people who use social media don’t check what they publish. Others repost or retweet information without reading it carefully, much less doing any due diligence for accuracy.
Some assert that fake news seek to fake people out. But Tom Rosenstiel asserts, “The goal of fake news is not to make people believe the lie. It is to make them doubt all news.”
So what are news consumers to do?
Check out the source. Know the “who” or the “what” of the source.
Check out the information. Use verification sites.
Be aware of your biases. Be open to other points of views.
There’s no need to close the gate, but be sure you know what’s flowing in. It matters