The media industry has a reputational crisis from three angles: content, advertising, and technology.
There are options for addressing this.
It’s not a secret that journalism is being questioned. There are fair and unfair reasons.
The fair reasons include the fact journalism mustn’t commit mistakes if journalists follow the ethics and method of the discipline. However, mistake can happen even if a person is rigorous.
Even worse, if a journalist doesn’t care enough, the reputational damage affects not only their name but the brand and the industry in general. This nurtures an environment with bad stereotypes, motivating institutional attacks. This is especially true if the newspaper evades, erases, or doesn’t recognise the issue, though it could make efforts to repair the mistake.
However, it’s not fair when content pretending to be serious media is used to manipulate societies for perverse interests. When people don’t recognise the difference between serious and dubious media, we are questioned about it and pay the price for malicious disinformation made by others.
When the Internet started, some advertising agencies were greedy and found an opportunity without the legacy media. This was not the right behaviour: Instead of thinking about the client and recognising the value of advertising on different platforms, these agencies convinced clients print was a disaster and didn’t deliver results.
Meanwhile, digital was, according to them, the only option because they business stayed within the agencies.
But clients were smart, learned, asked for data and results — and were disappointed.
Everyone lost when the value of legacy brands, which are multi-platform today, proved to be credible. It is very interesting, especially in this overwhelming chaos.
The Internet, analogue technology, and AI are among the tools that have allowed the media industry to innovate. At the same time, they have facilitated the creation of new brands and great creative competitors, and they’ve been good for society.
But these advances have also come with some fake media with fake news that manipulates societies and consumers with unhealthy interest.
So, what are the options? These are three things I’ve been thinking about.
- Transparency: We should be as transparent as possible about why we do journalism, what we believe, who we are, how are we financed, what our conflicts of interest are and how we balance them, and how we face mistakes.
- Educating the public about journalism: Have you seen peoples’ reactions when journalists explain how they got a story? Everyone is fascinated. There are movies about it. We should share this information more often. For example, we didn’t tell the story of the guerrilla in Colombia; we were secretly invited to stay with them for some days to write the story and it was very risky. It is fascinating how we go to real places, talk to real people, and gather the data on the scene. There are plenty of anecdotes to share. That is human talent, and quite expensive, I should add.
- Certifications: We need to create certifications to help people immediately recognise trustworthy local and international content, advertising, and distribution. Being a member of an association should reinforce reputation and come with recognition that acts as a warranty seal and awards that recognise quality.
Serious journalism is vital for democracy. We should differentiate it from the excesses of weak and false information out there.