Newspapers and watchdog journalism |
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Newspapers and watchdog journalism


This commentary on the spread and impact of fake news was written by Mark Cohen, president of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

Newspaper staffs across the commonwealth work tirelessly, day in and day out, to deliver fact-based news and information. It is the pledge of dedicated journalists, who are also fellow members of the community, to report real, honest and credible news.

In an era of misinformation and fake-news dissemination, it’s even more important to know that newspapers are a reliable resource that deliver accurate, fair and unbiased reporting from which you may form your own opinions. Although we are not perfect, we are quick to correct our mistakes, and do our best to avoid releasing incomplete information.

With 24/7 access to information, some media outlets rush to tell a story, and often make mistakes. That’s misinformation — inaccurate, but not necessarily malicious.

Fake news, however, is deliberate. Fake news harms — it erodes our trust in public institutions and our fellow citizens. The results of the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer survey found that 63 percent of respondents believe that the average person does not know how to tell good journalism from rumor or falsehoods.

Thankfully, newspaper journalists employ the fundamentals of good reporting that are essential to the delivery of real news, including thoroughness, good sourcing and strong evidence. Readers, therefore, aren’t tasked with having to differentiate solidly reported real news content from work that is more speculative, loosely sourced or backed by innuendo, hearsay or propaganda. These sources negatively impact and stain our industry.

To provide you with the truthful information you need and deserve, Pennsylvania newspapers are dedicated to being your real news source. You can rest assured that you are reading accurate information written by journalists who care about their readers. We take the time to assess statements and rhetoric for accuracy and truthfulness, and debunk viral stories and rumors.

We are also dedicated to providing news about your community. With more than 200 daily, Sunday and nondaily print and digital publications across the state, no matter where you are, we ensure that you are up-to-date on the information that matters the most to you.

Pennsylvania newspapers are dedicated to providing real news from real news people. In addition to being professional journalists, we are your friends, your family and your neighbors. We are honored and humbled by the trust that you have placed in us to deliver accurate news day in and day out.

The dedication of Pennsylvania newspapers to deliver real news is crucial. Watchdog journalism, through reliable sourcing and double-checking facts, gives us the credibility that you deserve. We are about ethics and balance.

Finally, we are dedicated to providing real news to real news readers. Thoughtful reporting and advertising should serve the best interests of readers, and provide an important public service.

As a newspaper reader, I implore you to do your part to help combat and prevent the spread of the inaccurate and fake news that you may be reading or hearing from other media sources.

Here are some tips.

• Check sources and citations — where was the article accessed, does the information appear on other sources?

• Pay attention to quality and timeliness — is there an abundance of spelling and grammatical errors?

• Has the story been shared on other credible news outlets?

• Research the author — is the author a real person who has written other pieces for reliable sources?

• If you suspect that something is inaccurate or fake, don’t share it.

Newspapers remain an important and powerful brand — the true source of real news. No other industry is as firmly rooted in the foundation of our nation as the free press. We are passionate and will never stop communicating our message so that you can discern what is real and what is posing as real. Fake news threatens our democratic institutions, including that of a free press, and we all need to unite and take a stand to regain power over it.

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