This is a short illustration of how fake news spread and misinformation happen:
John reads some studies and concludes that the climate change is real. He shares the info.
Josh has always told people that the climate change is fake. If people don’t believe in him, he will lose his job in the oil company.
He accuses John, “you lied! You just want to make a sensation!”
Meanwhile, Jason thought climate change is real because he can feel it.
But he wants to prove it. So he searches about it on the internet.
That’s how misinformation happens. We initially search for information which only supports our arguments, and we tend to avoid opposite information.
In the past, we used to rely on the media to decide which information is credible. However, what if we can’t trust them completely anymore?
How (Some) Journalists Betrayed Our Trust?
Not every journalist commits unethical behaviors and loses public trust, but as the proverb said, “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.” Here are some stories of the “bad apples:”
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How to Fix the Mess
There’s a way to fix the broken trust. The media should reflect on the good old days. Being objective and independent, telling the truth without fear, becoming a source of information that people can rely on. Those are some of the values the people appreciate from journalism work.
“We must evaluate how we keep our professionalism as reporters and how we raise our independence as journalists and media outlets,” says Head of Indonesian Student Press Association Agung Sedayu.
All information that the media spread has an impact on the public. That means the media should be responsible in every news article they produce.
Agung said there were some ways for media to retrieve the trust. First, the media must ensure their independence by producing news based on journalism values. When the media do a great job, public trust will increase.
“Second, be professional. In some cases, some people who commit violence against journalists (in Indonesia) blamed the media where those journalists work have its own personal agenda, produce one-sided stories, and spread false information. However, violence is not the right thing to do.”
Institutions which are in charge of observing and nurturing the media also need to do their job well. If they turn a blind eye of the violations on journalism ethics, there will be more public distrust toward media.
A Tempo journalist Stefanus Pramono says similar things. The media need to repeatedly verify and confirm every information because public trust the media as their sources of information. Once they make mistakes, the public will criticize them hard. “Especially in the new media era, when everyone can speak their minds out. People still criticize the media, though they say a truth. It will be worse if the media do mistakes.”
There are some media which most of the people considered as “reliable media.” Tempo (Indonesia), Reuters (United Kingdom), and PBS (United States) are few to mention. They had won some prestigious national and international journalism awards for their works. (Click to read more: Tempo, Reuters, PBS)
Hold the Media Accountable
With great power, comes great responsibility. Media have power to shape what people think. However, without restrain from the media and feedback from the public, it can cause chaos. Observing and nurturing the media is important.
Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) is one of the independent institutions which in charge of keeping the media on their role, particularly broadcast media.
According to KPI representative Mohammad Yusuf in his email, KPI now oversees 15 national television network for 24-hours, seven radio networks, and four subscription television randomly.
Mohammad said that based on the broadcasting data, there’s still a lot of media which are not under KPI supervision. “Most of them are radio stations. Not to add thousands of the local broadcasting stations (TV and radio),” he said. “The Regional Broadcasting Commissions cannot do their job optimally because of the lack of tools and excellent human resources.”
Despite all of the regulations and preventions, sometimes mistakes still occur. And it’s KPI’s job to warn those who violated the regulations. Some Indonesian media have experienced this. On January 2017, KPI sent a warning letter to three national TV stations for their news related to the Jakarta governor election. KPI says that those TV stations aired some negative biased news about one of the candidates. The framing also showed on a religious talk show aired by one of the TV stations.
The freedom of media must not be misused. Media need to maintain their independence and be a responsible voice of the voiceless, as the 1998 Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize recipient Christina Anyanwu says, “Once the press is demonized, weakened and made to lose credibility, there are fewer voices to shout against repression. There is less impetus in questioning the actions of government, or insisting on transparency, on justice.”