Journalists all over world are confronted by the growing threat of ‘fake news’ and digital media and finding an adequate solution to ensure the survival of journalism has been the aim of the Journalism and Media Laboratory (JAMLAB).

A panel discussion tackling the growing threat of ‘fake news’ and digital media to the field of journalism was hosted by Journalism and Media Laboratory (JAMLAB) on Wednesday, April 4, at the Wits Tshimologong Digital Precinct in Braamfontein.

Finding an adequate solution to ensure the survival of journalism was the aim of the event, aptly named, ‘We’ve been hacked’.

Editor of the Mail&Guardian, Khadija Patel, managing editor at Tiso Blackstar (formerly Times Media), Riaan Wolmarans and Siyabona Africa from the South African Media Innovation Program (SAMIP),  reflected on some of the critical issues affecting journalism today including credibility, economic pressures and the individual responsibilities of journalists.

Wolmarans argued that it is the responsibility of the media to create awareness about credibility. He said that it is not enough to assume readers will “magically” regain their trust in the media. He stated it is a journalist’s responsibility to communicate the difference between quality news and fake news.

Africa said that “we (journalists) have to do a better job at communicating why our own spaces are where verified and truthful information is found as opposed to fake news or disinformation … so people can see that we are the trusted source.”

“The internet is a minefield of fake news,” Wolmarans said.

“For journalists, making this differentiation for the audience is something we’re supposed to do but we’re not doing it,” he added.

Patel reflected on the financial pressures on newspapers, describing these as “insidious forces”. She added that “Once we lose the ability to push back we might actually shut down.”

The discussion was chaired by Indra de Lanerolle, the director of JAMLAB, who told Wits Vuvuzela that the response posed to journalist by these issues needs a collaborative response.

“I think, obviously, journalists are often working alone, in different media houses or online platforms. But we do have some things in common, we’re facing some of the same problems” he said.

Lanerolle added, “We’re trying to work out new solutions to the same common problems.”

“If readers don’t understand what makes journalism different from someone making things up that’s a problem” he said.

The ‘We’ve been hacked’ discussion was the first in a series of upcoming sessions led by JAMLAB to confront the state of journalism.

FEATURED IMAGE: Siyabona Africa, Khadija Patel and Indra de Lanerolle lead panel about state of journalism.