Un-faking the news

“We need to vaccinate the public with real journalism: explaining in detail how we come to a conclusion, how facts are gathered, what should be considered a fact and why — how journalism works.”

Much has been said and written about fake news. It all boils down to this: It’s the arch nemesis of journalism. The moment you get involved, you get infected. You draw attention to this nonsense, spreading rumors by debunking them.

ole-reissmannSo far, we’ve ignored the worst rumors, the most absurd conspiracy theories. When they went low, we stood clear. But does this work anymore? We face a dilemma: We can ignore the fake news and become part of the story. (See what they don’t tell you!) Or we can take rumors seriously, invest resources, and fact-check them. (If they deny it, it must be true!)

How do you argue with people for whom facts are negotiable? How do you reach out to people who are opposed to the principles of journalism? Because it’s not enough to warn our users about fake news: We need to reach the users who stay away from us. We need to enter the filter bubbles where conspiracy theories flourish, to understand the attraction, aesthetics, and economics of fake news, the mechanisms by which rumors spread on social media and enter search results. Then, we need to use this knowledge to disrupt the self-enforcing circle of rumors and fake news.

We need to vaccinate the public with real journalism: explaining in detail how we come to a conclusion, how facts are gathered, what should be considered a fact and why — how journalism works.

One could argue that we’re not responsible — that parents, schools, and others are to blame. While there might be some truth to that, it doesn’t help. Un-faking the news is no easy task. It doesn’t promise us a pot of gold. And we won’t convince everyone. But it’s our civic duty to try, because we can’t entrust technology companies with editorial decisions. And we certainly cannot let governments and their agencies decide what’s newsworthy and what’s not.

This task requires journalists and publishers that care deeply about democracy and freedom of speech. When fake news hits, we need to hit back, vigorously.

Ole Reißmann is founder and managing editor of bento, a publication of Der Spiegel.

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Trushar Barot   API or die

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Errin Haines   Chaos or community?

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them