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Industry unites to back pre-election fight against fake news

Fighting Fake NewsThe regional press has come together to fight fake news in a nationwide pre-election campaign.

HTFP reported last week how the News Media Association had launched its Fighting Fake News campaign, which aims to highlight the role of local newspapers in fighting the phenomenon.

The campaign also aims to inform readers about the importance of the regional press in providing “highly trusted” journalism in the run up to the General Election on June 8 and Local Newspaper Week, which starts on 15 May.

Many regional newspapers have run editorials on the subject this week voicing their support for the campaign.

A comment piece in the Yorkshire Post reads: “Today news is not only instantaneous, even from the world’s most inhospitable hotspots, but it is shaped by the public’s response on social media.

“As the war correspondent Martin Bell notes in his new book: ‘The technology has run ahead of us; it is not our servant but our master. The lie is halfway round the world before truth has got its boots on.’

“Yet, while separating fact from fiction is not helped by those politicians like President Donald Trump who dismiss any personal criticism, however legitimate, as ‘fake news’, the integrity of newspapers like The Yorkshire Post – and its sister titles across the region – is sacrosanct if public officials are to be held to account.

“Without such distinguished titles investing in trained journalists to report on events, or expose malpractice, democracy is imperilled. Yet this is precisely what will happen if local publishers – committed to upholding the highest standards – are undermined by those internet giants who allow falsehoods and fake news to masquerade as the truth.”

An industry statement carried on the Local Newspaper Week website reads: “As we approach the most significant national election in a generation, the need for independent local newspapers and their websites to report and explain the issues in an entirely neutral, honest and balanced way is essential.

“This approach is in keeping with their ethos of always seeking to provide trusted news, campaigning on behalf of their communities, giving advertisers respected platforms to promote their services, exposing wrongdoing through painstaking investigations, and ensuring that the voice of residents and the business community is heard with clarity and authority.

“This election will be different from any other. It is not simply that the outcome will define our future relationship with the EU and the manner in which it is negotiated; but it will be held in the context of the phenomenon of fake news.”

Prime Minister Theresa May gave her backing to the campaign during a visit to Brighton daily The Argus on Friday.

She said: “We need to be very wary of this concept of fake news. We have got a situation with social media and different outlets where anybody can put something on social media site as if it’s real without anybody checking. People need to recognise that and recognise you can’t trust everything you see on social media.”

“We know newspapers have a responsibility that they take seriously in terms of what they are reporting. A free press is a very important, it underpins our democracy. It’s also important for [politicians] to make sure the statements we make are upfront and transparent for people.”

During her visit, Mrs May also toured the Argus’s new HQ, met new editor Arron Hendy and his team and was quizzed on a number of local issues by political reporter Neil Vowles.