Story published on
11 February 2019
Disinformation. Misinformation. Fake News. Words that the world seems to have discovered once Donald Trump became president. Still, for all the debates on disinformation in the age of social media, there is still not enough talk about why it is so easy for us to be manipulated and misinformed. I know I had my share in this.
It’s the paradox of our times. We have information at our fingertips more than ever before in our lives, but are somehow less informed.
It’s not just you, the audience. I think we, as journalists are in an equally perillous place. We have entered into a neverending cycle of feeding ourselves and then you with tiny bits of information. And because we have too much of it, because the attention span of the consumer has apparently reached goldfish lows, because we fail to make you trust us that it’s worth sticking around for more than 15 seconds – all of this is why we bombard you with useless, uncontextualized information. We know that. And we know you know that.
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The war on information
Disinformation & Fake News
- Disinformation = false information deliberately and often covertly spread (by planting rumours, for example), in order to influence public opinion and obscure the truth.
- Misinformation = incorrect or misleading information, but not deliberately created and spread with the intention of causing some harm
- Fake News = false, often sensational, stories spread on the Internet and made to look like news reporting. Collins Dictionary declared it ‘word of the year’ in 2017.
(Merriam-Webster and Collins Dictionaries, UNESCO Report)
Why our information habbits matter
A 2018 study conducted by three scholars of Ohio State University is the first of its kind to conclude that fake news DID influence the outcome of the US 2016 election.
I interviewed one of the authors, Richard Gunther, who explained that one of the reasons we are so easily manipulated on social media is because that’s precisely where we now get our information from.
Also, when we see something shared by some friend or relative, we tend to trust it easier than we now trust something that comes from more ‘official’ media sources. The recording of my interview with Richard Gunther is HERE. More about their report, HERE
The good news
In 2018, Edelman’s Trust Barometer found that trust in traditional media has reached highs unseen since 2012 – 61%.
Still, people are consuming less media and some (19%) are actively avoiding it, according to the same study.
Let’s take the US. This is where this huge debate on social media disinformation started, right? More than two years after the “Trump wake-up call”, two thirds of American adults (68%) are STILL getting their news on social media. That’s according to a Pew Research Study. And the Americans are not an exception. This is the worldwide trend now.
That’s what happens when you get too much information and lack stories. It’s unsustainable.
We need stories. This is the thread that weaves our civilization. Contrary to the cliches, information is not power if it lacks context and meaning. And when you add context and meaning, when you give relevant information, something that people can understand and fit into their lives, then that’s a story. And a good one for that matter.
Facebook has 2.27 billion monthly users, about the same, if not more than the number of people who adhere to the world’s largest religion, Christianity
With Journalism legend Bob Woodward, in Washington D.C., where I was invited by the US State Department to be an Edward R. Murrow Fellow
In 2018, trust in traditional media has seen a significant increase – 61%, according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer. Still, too many people (19%) actively avoid the media
The story of how we lost the story
Mainstream journalism cannot afford the luxury of dwelling on storytelling. At least not the type of journalism I’ve been a part of.
Before deciding if I have a place at all in journalism after this mini-retirement, I need to get back to my roots, to prove myself that I can – even if on my own dime – still deliver the kind of journalism I would like to get as a consumer.
I have all the tools to make it happen: I will not be stuck in a place, so the pool of potential stories will be very large. I will not have the constraints and stress of day-to-day life. And I am extremely thirsty for some good, powerful stories that will make me terribly excited at first draft.
Source: 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, via Digiday.com
I need your help
This is, then, my mission statement. This is what I set out to do. Hopefully, I’ll manage to show you it can be done and that you indeed miss something like this in your life. It’s my way of making ammends for all the times I could have done a better job.
I’ll need your help, though. A jornalist isn’t a journalist without an audience. As long as you follow my stories and let me know what is relevant for you and possibly signal things that would interest you, my mission of wandering the world with a purpose is worthwhile.
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