Where’s the Objectivity? A panel discussion

A lively crowd of more than 70 gathered on April 25 at Still Hopes Retirement Community for a panel discussion featuring three local media professionals discussing the topic of “Where’s the Objectivity” in news gathering and dissemination in today’s world.

Harry Logan, former managing editor for the Florence Morning News and The State; Jay Bender, attorney for the SC Press Association; and Reba Campbell, communications strategist and president of The Medway Group, participated in a lively discussion.

Seven takeaways

1 –In today’s world, anyone or any organization has the ability to bypass traditional news outlets allowing anyone to be a newsmaker. On one hand, this can be a positive allowing reputable public relations professionals opportunities to bypass the traditional news gatekeepers and publish their own news. However, this can also be a negative giving the same access to shady characters to also publish their own news. In both cases, even the most sophisticated readers can often find it difficult to discern the difference between “real” news and “fake news.” (see #7)

2 – Everyone should always question their news sources – even the most trusted ones (see #1) – and be their own reporter and editor. People often unintentionally end up in their own echo chamber by creating their own news feeds that only push information that reinforces their own point of view.

3 – The definition of social media typically is considered to be the digital platforms though which anyone can self-publish information. This includes sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Reddit, as well as blogs and other self-published websites.

4 – Social media sites don’t have the same legal restrictions as traditional media outlets. For instance, a newspaper will have liability for libel if it publishes false information that injures someone’s reputation in letters to the editor. The newspaper can be sued and have to defend the case. Facebook and other social media outlets, however, are insulated from liability, no matter how outrageous the information being posted.

5 – In South Carolina, 24 out of 46 counties are considered to be “news deserts” meaning they have only one local newspaper. One county has no local papers anymore. The financial models that traditional print newspapers depended on the past on are no longer viable – due in large part to digital competition and staffing challenges. (graphic and research credit: USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications Bateman Team.)

6 – Artificial intelligence is in its infancy. The potential for an increase in dissemination of false information goes up exponentially with the ability create an image, a sound or words that can imitate a person precisely. There’s no way to know at this early stage of AI usage how it will impact the world of journalism and news gathering. Today’s angst over AI isn’t all that different from how we looked at using calculators in the classroom 30 years ago.

7 – Good websites for checking the veracity of news sources include the News Literacy Project, Rumor Guard and Fact Check. Snopes can be helpful for fact checking general rumors and potential misinformation (including those pesky Facebook posts that encourage users to cut and paste posts that guarantee more friends, fewer ads, etc.)

Published by Reba Campbell

Reba Hull Campbell established the Medway Group in 2020, bringing more than 35 years of professional success in politics, government relations, organizational leadership, fundraising and communications to her clients and her teaching.

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