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Reporting in a world full of “Alternative Facts”

By Marivel Guzman

Reporting in a world full of Alternative Facts
“Alternative facts” are hard lies in soft language

Society of Professional Journalists, Sacramento Charter and State Hornet put together a forum on April 11, 2017 where professional journalists answered questions on ‘Alternative Facts’ which term was brought to media attention by KellyAnn Conway, President Donald Trump special adviser.

The main message(s) for reporters is to know how to do their jobs in a world that is now full with “Alternative Facts,” which are really just hard lies in soft language. (Which bring the fact that the panel did not mention KellyAnn Conway who brought the issue into light.)

Indeed the panel gave their advice on how to look and report but I think that it would have made more sense for them to talk about how Conway, and Sean Spicer, United State Press Secretary, have now made reporters adjust to ask the hard questions to this new administration without being dodged. Is it possible?

The conversation revolved about being perceptive in understanding when reporters are being lied to, what Melanie Mason, from LA Times referred to; as a developing a “spider sense,” and implied that reports need a perception for finding reliable sources as well. She also said that when she covered the presidential elections she “Never really had an ‘off’” or any “downtime to think about coverage,” she said because deadlines are always five minutes ago.

I wonder if this would take away the ability of a reporter for fact-checking the information. Mason said you have to have the right sources who you trust and make a quick assessment.

Chris Nichols from FactCheck on Capital Public Radio said that Government Data and think tanks are good places to start, but they need to reach out for the experts, and to take the data and put it on a context, which I believe can be misleading because think tanks are experts but in reality they are also lobbyists, with a set agenda.

“ ‘If their principal product is ideas, their goal is influence. “Our number one goal is to have impact on policy,” says Andrew Schwartz, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.’” The Washington Post, in its article, Are Think Tank Obsolete? By Amanda Bennett, published on Oct. 05, 2015.

In this climate of Alternative News and Fake News to blur accurate reporting said A.G. Block, former editor of the California Journal, “The public currently doesn’t trust the news they are receiving,” and I totally agree with him. We as reporters, now more than ever need to withhold to the journalism Code of Ethics and report the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

This panel did a great job equipping the audience with tools reporters can use today, but a piece of the puzzle was missing. The birth of “alternative facts” was not explored enough given the collision that media is now finding itself in with the trump administration, fake news, and the new definition of facts.

Reporters across the media spectrum find themselves ‘proving their information,’ so, when Trump comes to tweet “Fake News” reporters and readers can disregard the tweet as distraction.



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