charlie beckett THIS ONECharlie Beckett is a Professor in LSE’s Department of Media and Communications and Director of the Truth, Trust and Technology Commission (#LSEt3). Here he provides a brief update on the work so far of the Commission, which is holding its first consultative workshop tomorrow on the topic of journalism credibility. 

Comedy and think-tanks have one thing in common: the secret to success is…

wait for it…

timing.

So I am very excited (if not a bit frightened) by the fact we are running an LSE Commission into Truth, Trust and Technology at the same time as politicians, news organisations, technology companies and a whole bunch of activists, lawyers, lobbyists, corporations and citizens are making attempts to deal with the public information crisis: ‘fake news’, propaganda, misinformation, filter bubbles, and polarisation.

This week alone the British government has announced an inquiry into the sustainability of local and national news media and its relationship with advertising and the digital platforms such as Google. Meanwhile, news publishers are still working out what impact Facebook’s recent Newsfeed changes are having and how they should respond.

Is this a moral panic or is the health of media and democracy at stake?

We are holding our first consultative workshop on ‘journalism credibility’ this week with people from journalism, digital companies, policy-makers and academics. Then over the next few months we move on to tackle ‘platform responsibility’, ‘online political communications’ and ‘media literacy and citizenship’. [*See below for a flavour of the issues we will be tackling in the journalism workshop]

We are focusing on the UK in this phase but clearly these are global issues and we’ll be moving into  international mode after our first report is published in autumn 2018.

We want our Commission to be a hub for information, a forum for debate and to produce insights that can help set the agenda and critique policy and strategy across journalism and social media.

This is a complex set of issues where a lot of self-interested parties are battling for advantage. Bad moves made now could cause long-term damage and opportunities could be missed. It is vital that the different sectors talk to each other and that we have the best academic and industry research and data available along with some fresh thinking and innovation. At the heart of our inquiry is the public interest.

Please get in touch if you have an opinion or want to take part by emailing us at: media.t3commission@lse.ac.uk

*Here are some of the questions we will be asking at our first workshop:

Truth

How can we improve verification? If fact-checking is only a partial solution, how can we make it more effective? What else can be done to improve the credibility and quality of journalism? Do we need to abandon ideas of objectivity? Is news becoming too emotional and subjective?

Trust

How can journalism stay relevant? Are there too many sources of news? What can be done to improve engagement between journalists and the public? How can journalism become more diverse, both with regard to content and the background of journalists? What can journalists do to improve media literacy in newsrooms but also amongst the public? How do you persuade people to pay for journalism/news?

Technology

What would be a fair and generative relationship between news organisations and platforms (Google, Facebook, Twitter etc)? How should platform regulation promote quality, trusted news? Do we need to find incentives for platforms to promote, edit or filter news and journalism? And if so, why and how? What are the best technologies to promote credible journalism? Which technological, production or business models thrive in an era of platform power?

Public Value of Journalism

How can we improve political journalism in particular and the contribution of news to democracy and society in general? Should we be worried about filter bubbles, polarisation, populism and extremism? What can be done to make journalism a more positive part of society? How can we build capacity for local, investigative, foreign and accountability journalism? What is the role of public service media or the new alternative forms of political journalism?

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This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Media Policy Project or the LSE.