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Fact-checking journalism has faded with modern time

The world’s largest democracy is divided in to politics of majority and minority. The media coverage is always huge — nearly 90,000 registered newspapers and periodicals and over 900 TV stations repeat same thing in different styles. The number of Internet users is around 600 million in India. Imagine fake news or the news that is not authenticated getting viral. In the Lok Sabha elections, we saw a tsunami of fake news sweeping through, largely because of a highly polarised political mood. There is no fact checker for the public to verify the claims. Political propaganda, circulation of false news witnessed a dramatic rise in the country during the run-up to the 2019 elections. Social media, full of user-generated content is now an indispensable news-gathering tool for a journalist. As a consequence, fact checking has become a more vital element in journalism than ever. It is a deliberate strategy, media and communications experts say, and one that appears to resonate with some (mostly) conservative audiences who were already primed to mistrust the media during the 2016 campaign. The verbal attacks on reporters during the campaign, particularly at rallies where journalists were kept at distance and taunted by Modi supporters, went largely unaddressed by media managers.

On one hand media, is fighting within for the lack of infrastructure, lack of nonconformity and liberty, while many well-known media houses have robust fact-checking departments to guard against errors, they are essentially non-existent at newspapers and digital outlets. The rules of reporting, of course, come with a number of safeguards that journalists who by and large conduct their work in pursuit of accuracy to the best of their abilities follow carefully. One of the primary reasons for this is a lack of time; it is virtually impossible to rigorously report the day’s news, edit a story, and then hand it over to a fact checker to be verified in time to print a paper the next day or an article the next hour. Knowing this, one might reasonably expect that the tight deadlines and are often hyped as reliable sources of information, are fact checked. Fact checking is not built into the editing process in journalism, and it never has been. Media houses spend most of their money on advances paid directly to authors, and so can’t afford to hire fact-checking departments. And if fact checking rests on the authors, publishing houses are protected, legally.

In a world filled with new digital tricks, journalists shouldn’t forget traditional verification techniques. Journalism is abundant today and the supply of news is far more widespread: In an earlier era, the latest news was only available to a privileged few in society. News agencies could charge high premiums for providing the latest news – only the rich could afford such services. The general populace would only get to know of the latest developments at a far later point in time. Modern journalism has changed this system completely. Today, the latest news is often first available on social media and mainstream media then reports these facebook posts or twitter feeds. Whatsapp ensures that videos of the latest incidents and events are available to the common man even while he is travelling. The net impact of all this is that today’s citizens are more aware of the news than ever before in history. A better-informed society is one that can make more rational decisions, better-informed decisions. This has made it more difficult for shady governments or shady businesses to fool people. The smartphone has greatly reduced privacy and lifted the veil of secrecy: You must have heard of several cases where ordinary citizens have captured incidents and events on their smartphones and then circulated videos via social media. This has made it more difficult for those with vested interests to manipulate the truth and paint incidents in a more favourable light. Incidents of brutality and oppression can no longer be hidden or sugarcoated. The truth is there for all to see.

In such a scenario, many mainstream media channels are trying to move away from traditional models and are trying to tap into the power of smartphones and social media. Today’s citizens are better informed and hence, are less tolerant of domination. As a result, citizen driven social media fuelled revolutions may take place in many other parts of the world. Dictatorship and oppression are on the wane and democracy is on the rise. These are some of the most important ways in which modern journalism is changing the world. What must be noted here is that as people get used to receiving more and more information in real time, they will have ever-greater demand for further information and analysis. Pragmatism emerged at a time when journalism was separating from political party affiliations and becoming more accurate. It coincided with the invention of what journalists call the inverted pyramid, in which a journalist lines the facts up from the most important to the least important, thinking it helps audiences understand things naturally.

At the beginning of the 20th century, however, some journalists began to worry about the naïveté of realism. In part, reporters and editors were becoming more aware of the rise of propaganda and the role of press agents. Although journalism may have developed various techniques and conventions for determining facts, it has done less to develop a system for testing the reliability of journalistic interpretation.

(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on feedback@afternoonvoice.com)

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Dr Vaidehi Tamanhttp://www.vaidehisachin.com
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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