Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a live broadcast of an international radio news program. Guests and hosts alike arrived to the venue for the three-hour live discussion with stacks of stories they had printed out the night before. Each story had been highlighted in an array of colors with hand-written notes on the margins. These stories would guide their conversation and provide context.
Once each settled-in, what I witnessed next underscores why public uncertainty about the news and information they receive continues to haunt media. Hosts and guests alike, pulled out their mobile phones, checking for trending stories and real-time social media conversation. Throughout the news program, content read directly from social media channels and online sources was shared on-air with no effort to fact-check content prior to dissemination. With 91 percent of journalists reporting that they believe the public trusts them less than in previous years, fact-checking is paramount to restore public confidence and critical to practicing responsible journalism.Fact-checking is paramount to restore public confidence and critical to practicing responsible journalism.Click To Tweet
Here are three tips for fact-checking sources when on-air:
- When a story is identified, check for the same story on a well-known, reputable search engine. Check on one other site minimum. Ask others on the set to cross-check content as well. If there’s no possibility of cross-checking the information about to be shared, then indicate that the information being shared has not been confirmed – and keep making that statement to catch those just tuning-in.
- Keep a laptop or notebook computer out, use it to cross-check stories and social media content. Viewing a story on a larger screen can divulge more about the source, web address, and the story itself versus on a small screen.
- Once off-air, take time to cross-check the information shared on-air – whether shared by you, co-host(s) or guest(s). Address any incorrect content shared on social media channels and at the beginning of the show next-day, and post a correction on the program’s site or comments section.
Bottom Line: Media sources continue to explode, making journalist’s task of discerning fact from fiction more difficult. PR professionals are uniquely poised to help restore trust in media by providing journalists with accurate and well-sourced information for their stories.
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