Journalists deceptive political news to smear rivals? Or for views…

“The effectiveness of fake news is primarily due to its ability to mimic real news, to seem plausible.”

Pope Francis. World Communications Day 2018.

The term “Fake News” was originally defined as an article that was intentionally false, to mislead readers and hide the real truth. Fake news can be discussed about a person’s lifestyle, politics and any current affairs surrounding a situation. Fake news can take place in a childhood playground, where young minds are adapting to social situations, which can lead to bad social skills when older generations begin working in places, like the field of Journalism. Journalists are constantly publishing fake stories and should be aware of the consequences that come when addressing a misleading story about someone or something, this includes the MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics for Australian journalism and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) for American journalism. In this blog post, I will be on the topic of Pope Francis and the Donald Trump saga. I will be paying special attention to the fake news surrounding the Pope’s political view on Donald Trump and how journalists of a site called WTOE 5 News, published an article in regard to Pope’s endorsement to Trump, when it was undeniably fake.

Image Courtesy to DonkeyHotey

In July 2016, a publisher by the name ‘WTOE 5 News’ website published deceptive comments about Pope Francis’s political views on Trump, which was later picked up by Ending the Fed, a website that published satire or humorist posts about celebrities, people and places. Before the backlash, the site gained over one million shares on Facebook. Millions shared their comments and opinions about this topic, supposedly the Pope himself discussed his political views on Donald Trump, quoting “Pope Francis shocks world, endorses Trump for president, releases statement”. Posting about someone’s personal political views is unethical and Pope Francis himself condemned this article. Pope Francis stated “fake news is of spreading disinformation online or in the traditional media“, he oughts journalists to fight fake news with objective and accurate reporting after this article was published.

“Journalists must make their efforts focused on facts rather than fake news, objectivity rather than gossip, accurate research rather than sloppy headlines.”

Pope Francis.

There are seperate types of fake news that attract attention and views, here are a few types:

  1. Clickbait – The hope of getting the readers attention with fascinating titles or photos. Used to draw the reader to the story or video. Clickbait in this modern day is the most common way of using fake news to its power. Most common on sites like Youtube, Daily Mail etc. In this instance, the case of Pope Francis and his views on Trump which were false.

2. Satire or Parody – Sites published with a humorous attempt to satire stories. Sometimes done with an attempt to fool the reader. Sites like The Daily Mail and Onion, stories can be shared out of context with satirical or parodic meaning.

3. Misleading News without context. Tends to upload information with a false headline but accurate facts. Usually where opinions clash with false narratives. Also involves the case of WTOE 5 News publishing the false headline of Trump stating “Pope Francis shocks world, endorses Trump for president, releases statement”.

4. Sloppy agenda-driven reporting. Articles posted from one point of view, usually driven by one agenda that isn’t full of the truth and is biast

5. Intentionally deceptive. Stories that are fabricated far from the truth which tend to make money of false content. Written to gain views and clicks on the article, no truth intended throughout article.

Journalists at this day and age are the main source of information when it comes to sources of news. Verification and truth is the essence of journalism, journalists have a duty to commit accuracy and produce real truthful stories. Throughout the twenty-first century, stories have circulated with lies, no fact-checking, being intentionally deceptive, racist and sexist stories which have challenged with ethical journalism. Journalists should strive to post raw and truthful stories on platforms, acting professionally and accordingly for the public. There are some best practises a journalist should approach when writing a story, especially at times when there is an important event or crisis taking place as most false stories increase, for instance the US election. Journalists should ask themselves basic questions before making a story, for example, how did they retrieve the information they are writing about? Did they witness the event or did they hear it from a friend? Journalist if not individual publishers, but are within a large group don’t have to be guided by the SPJ or MEAA Code of Ethics necessarily, but should be aware when posting fake news, as there are code of ethics shown below that need to be guidelines before publishing.

In Australia, journalists need to abide by the Australian MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics only IF they are a member if the MEAA. This regulation was brought in 1944 registered by the Fair Work Commission for the purpose for MEAA to engage with journalists by committing themselves to honesty, fairness, independence, respect for the rights of others, outlined in Rules of the MEAA (2009). If individual journalists go against these codes of ethics, disciplinary powers can be used against them by the panel of Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). The problem nowadays with the MEAA Code of Ethics is that journalists are no longer members of the industry. Whereas the American Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics is a statement of abiding principles supported by explanations and position papers that address changing journalistic practise, it is not under the First Amendment, legally forceable. Fake News can be regulated through Australian MEAA Codes of Ethics, journalists in this day and age if individually publishing, use the Australian MEAA Code of Ethics if publishing a story. And in this case between the Pope’s political comments, the story was unethical and was not regulated appropriately.

Disclaimer: This article is based on an assignment.

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