How Media Companies Can Fix the News
Mauro Silva, Senior Vice President of Modern Times Group (MTG) explains why Media & Entertainment companies need to be aware of the new responsibilities they possess in our post-truth society, where objective facts are less influential in shaping people’s opinions than elements that appeal to emotions or personal beliefs.
Is the news broken? I’ve found myself asking this question frequently since Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, declared that it is.
Virtually anyone in the world can share a compelling story and reach thousands of people instantly. In our post-truth society, any story can become a trending topic, but just because people are talking about it and sharing it online, doesn’t implicitly make it factual or correct. We are surrounded by fake news.
You no longer need to be a media company to distribute information or share engaging content that has an impact on people’s lives, but media companies have the distinct ability to bring life to a story simply by amplifying it, which, for many, definitively confirms the “truth”. For this reason, every media outlet has a responsibility to provide a full picture to their followers; to ensure they have covered every angle or viewpoint, and the news they are reporting is indeed correct.
Earlier this month, the BBC was left red-faced after incorrectly using a parody account on twitter as a reporting source. Despite Twitter terms and conditions stating that parody accounts should label themselves as such, many aren’t. Mistakes happen - this wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last - but every time they do, they damage the credibility of the media industry; they break the news a little bit.
The 2017 Digital Report, from the Reuters Institute, revealed that only 38% of Americans trust the media. For decades, we’ve been choosing which political paper to read and we’ve been surrounding ourselves with people who share the same opinion as us, but we now also see this polarisation online, particularly on social media. Content-recommendation algorithms cater to our individual habits and beliefs, which serves to polarise and segregate us more. Media outlets which do not share our beliefs are dismissed on the grounds of mistrust.
The responsibility to offer unbiased truths should extend beyond traditional corporate responsibility for media companies. Responsible media is about content owners and distributors engaging with communities and providing entertainment that is relevant, appropriate and balanced. At the same time, it’s our own responsibility, as individuals, to make use of all sources available to make sense of different viewpoints.
At MTG, we believe that the days of one-way communication are behind us. Today is all about creating a collaborative environment with a sense of community and belonging. It’s about sharing live events unfolding in real-time, and empowering our audience by encouraging self-expression, no matter what their beliefs. Media companies cannot ignore their need to be part of the conversation, but we must regulate it fairly to avoid losing the confidence of our audience.
The news isn’t completely broken. Yet.