And then there is the rise of ubiquitous, frequently bald-faced, misinformation and disinformation. This phenomenon isn’t new — “[I]t seems to me that lying has reached such epidemic proportions in our culture and among our institutions in recent years, that we’ve all become immunized to it,” the late Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee said in a speech at Harvard more than two decades ago — but by almost any measure, the Web has made the problem immensely more challenging. So too has the rise of PR: There are currently 4.6 “communications professionals” for every journalist in the United States, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. And because politicians and corporations alike can use digital streams to “go direct” to audiences, more spin and half-truth than ever is being broadcast to the public.
Misinformation. Disinformation. The rise of PR. So it isn't my imagination that social media sometimes seems like one big publicity stunt. The Pew Center apparently forget to report the percentage of journalists who are "communication professionals." Now that would be interesting.
But back to Harvard. So what's a journalist to do with quick deadlines and audiences with limited attentional focus in an ever-expanding web of competing often sensationalized information and misinformation?
Not consult with experts but be an expert. Go with her or his own deep knowledge.
“When reporters must file quickly, without the opportunity to observe or conduct interviews, they have no place to turn except to what they already know,” writes Thomas Patterson, the Shorenstein Center’s research director and the Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at Harvard, in his 2013 book Informing the News: The Need for Knowledge-Based Journalism. “Knowledge is the best remedy for hastily concocted, wrongheaded story lines.”
How comforting. So in the future reporters, newsmakers and commentators, etc. will have deep knowledge of their subject matter.
Now maybe poorly paid Ph.D.s can finally leave those one-year adjunct positions and become poorly paid freelance journalists and editors. What a relief.