By: Anna Merezhko, April 24, 2017
On April 5th, Brian Stelter and David Folkenflik were part of a panel at DelVal’s Fact or Fiction event. It was a special academic forum that discussed responsible journalism and the inevitable existence of fake news.
Brian Stelter is the Senior Media Correspondent for CNN and host of Reliable Sources, a talk show on CNN that analyzes news media. He graduated from Towson University with a bachelor’s in mass communication and became a media reporter for The New York Times. He started working at CNN in 2013.
David Folkenflik is a Media Correspondent for NPR with a very impressive resume. He was called one of the top 50 most influential people in American media by Business Insider. Folkenflik graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s in history. There, he was the editor-in-chief for the Cornell Daily Sun. Afterwards, he worked for the Baltimore Sun for more than a decade, and went on to work for NPR from there.
Stelter discussed the “media diet” people consume. Sometimes they consume junk food- short media articles like Buzzfeed. Sometimes they fine dine and consume long, informative articles. Stelter admitted that he consumes a bit of both.
Both Stelter and Folkenflik commented on how difficult it was to filter real news in the digital age. With so many news outlets, information is very easily distorted. Folkenflik said tech companies share in the responsibility of allowing verified or accurate stories to be put at the top. Instead of stories being displayed based on their verifiability, they’re displayed based on how many views they get. This is the tragedy of the media: accuracy is no longer as important as getting viewers.
Folkenflik said that “news is a large tile mosaic that you can’t possibly see the whole picture of ” so it’s important to contextualize. Making sure your news in coming from a good source can be tricky.
Stelter spoke of a time he published a story that came from what seemed a good source, but the next day, the source retracted everything he had said. This could have killed Stelter’s career and he was very well aware of that. Stelter wrote a very long and detailed follow-up explaining his mistake and reasoning as to why he believed him. Because of the follow-up story, he wasn’t fired.
Responsible journalism means leaving no room for error. Reporters have to make sure that they have all the pieces of the story before publishing something as fact. That’s how libel lawsuits happen. A source that’s willing to talk isn’t always a good source. Your source needs to be able to back their “facts” up.
The panel ended on the topic of media bias and how it is impossible to have unbiased news because everyone is biased. Each person has built-in biases that stem from their upbringings. So how does that fit into a world that is constantly flooding with information? How does truth prevail amidst the distortion of facts?
Most of the truths we believe were instilled in us by our parents. Throughout our lives, the opinions we have are based on those biases. Like Folkenflik said, it is impossible to see the whole picture. Our only hope is that we are getting as much of the story as possible and that we broaden the horizons of what we listen to and read. The cure for misinformation is more information.