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FEATURE6 November 2017

Why facts are not enough in the fight against fake news

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Features Impact Media Public Sector UK

UK – Brian Tarran listens in as journalists and academics debate loss of trust in the media, and why digital literacy and emotionally engaging stories can help halt the spread of misinformation.

You might have read that we live in a ‘post-truth’ era, when facts no longer matter and emotion reigns supreme. But Dorothy Byrne, head of news and current affairs at Channel 4, takes issue with the idea: “You can be pre- or post-breakfast, but you can’t be pre- and post-truth; it’s a different concept.” Likewise, Byrne says, there’s no such thing as ‘fake news’. “If it’s fake, it can’t be news, because news is about something that actually happened.”

However much one might dispute the labels, ‘post-truth’ and ‘fake news’ are problems that many have been grappling with since Britain’s EU membership referendum, and even more so since the Donald Trump presidency. 

Byrne is acutely aware of the danger of misinformation and the harm it can do to the public’s perception of what’s real. Speaking at a recent London conference, organised by the Westminster Media Forum, she described how Channel 4 conducted a survey of the British public, ...