Thursday 23 January 2020
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theguardian - 1 month ago

We can t fight fake news without saving local journalism

Local news is often trusted more than national news but it is highly vulnerable to online disinformation
One of the very few heroes of the UK election campaign is James Mitchinson, editor of the Yorkshire Post. Mitchinson’s email to a reader who would not believe a (true) story about a sick child left to wait on the floor of a Leeds hospital is a model of both public service journalism and how to debunk a lie. “Whatever you do, do not believe a stranger on social media who disappears into the night.” The email is an open letter to all readers now and you can read it on The Yorkshire Post’s websiteIf you do visit the page on The Yorkshire Post, you will find Mitchinson’s measured words about how his journalists check stories and how the fabric of the lie spread initially on Facebook came apart under scrutiny. If you scroll further you will also come to components of the page which contain both other legitimate stories from the Post and headlines from an automated advertising service called Taboola. The Taboola headlines are not giving readers useful information, but rather startling prompts such as : ‘Angelina Jolie’s Daughter Used to Be Adorable, But Now She Looks Insane’. Scroll further and you will come to the reader comments on the piece which are hosted by Facebook itself. Within the comments there are dozens of readers who talk straight past Mitchinson’s reason with their own conspiracy theories: ‘I don’t know who is telling the truth here’, starts the very first comment on the thread ‘...but I do know if my child was so ill, taking a picture of it and sending it to a newspaper would be the last thing on my mind.’ Continue reading...

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