The final piece in our first series of Unpopular Opinion articles looks at the subject of fake news, and how industry ‘experts’ who speak at events may need to rethink how they create their content.
I have the great privilege of speaking and hosting at many events all over the world, but there is one thing that drives me nuts:
The pervasive problem of people standing on stages, sitting on platforms and claiming unverified facts and sprouting false claims in a time where there is no excuse to not do the research or cite the claim.
Fake news has been a big problem for some time now, and there are many people out there that will just read a post of Facebook and believe it to be the truth, without finding an original or secondary source.
It was last year’s biggest buzz term; we see it all over our televisions, in the paper, on the Web and now on stages all over the world.
The problem is, there is so much misinformation spread around that audiences no longer know what to believe. The concept of fake news – whilst often used to demean an unflattering report – is also a legitimate problem. The line between ‘expert’ speaker and merely someone who has quickly glanced over some articles and headlines has blurred, making it more important than ever for all speakers, regardless of their platform, to verify their facts.
The Facts on Facts
Just how serious are the problems with misinformation, false claims and fake news?
In last year’s Duke Reporter’s Lab census, international fact-checking projects increased from 64 in 2015 to 96 in 2016, across 37 countries.
According to a survey of 1,212 adults from Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, when a trusted publisher features native advertising for a trustworthy brand, 41 per cent of consumers gain trust in that publisher. Likewise, when a trusted publisher features native advertising for an untrustworthy brand, 43 per cent of consumers lose trust in that publisher.
Oxford Dictionary selected “post-truth” as its 2016 word of the year.
The Dangers of Misinformation
What happens when unfounded claims and misinformation are reported as fact? Plenty. Reputations of both speakers and subjects can be damaged.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” – Warren Buffett
Fact-checking is incredibly important in any industry, not just events! Whether you’re promoting a venue, product or service, speaking or writing an opinion piece, or reporting on an event, it’s vital to get all the facts right. A single mistake – no matter how small – could result in anything from losing your audience, readers, or customers’ trust to becoming the target of an internet backlash or even legal repercussions. Do your research. Then do more research. Then cite your references. If you have the privilege to be asked to speak on any stage or panel where your voice has power, always remember that “with great power comes great responsibility!” Uncle Ben from Spiderman*.
*It was actually Voltaire who said it first.
See how easy it is.
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