Only real journalism can counter fake news, says DW-TV DG
Addressing a lecture on the subject ‘Digital Journalism in the Age of Fake News’ at Habib University, Deutsche Welle TV Director General Peter Limbourg said on Friday that social media had had a transformative effect on the spread of news, having made news about global events accessible to literally everyone.
However, he warned that this had also had the negative effect of the spread of unverifiable news, which went against the very basic tenant of journalism that of checking facts. “We need to strengthen the ability to access, analyse, create and reflect on the media,” he emphasised.
The danger of fake news, according to Limbourg, is that it often serves an ideological narrative in which the facts take a backseat while false information drives the narrative. He warned that spreading fake information only served the cause of political figures who sought to benefit from excessive nationalism and xenophobic rhetoric.
Limbourg also spoke about the role of social media, including Facebook and Twitter, which, he said, has played a role in spreading unsubstantiated news. He was of the view that Facebook and Twitter had a high responsibility for what was happening on their platforms.
Limbourg gave the example of DW-TV, which though receiving funding from the German state, was not responsible to it, and that allowed it to maintain its independence and its integrity. As the director-general of DW-TV, Limbourg said that he always told his colleagues that “we are journalists and not activists. Even if the cause is a just one, we must always maintain our objectivity”.
Looking at the state of world affairs, he expressed his concern that the election of populist figures in democratic countries, many of whom rode on a wave of fake news, was having a negative impact on free societies that valued tolerance and pluralism.
To challenge the spread of fake news, he urged that people should understand the basics of journalism and never allow personal bias to negate undeniable facts. He stated that since the majority of people got their news online, rather than newspapers and television, they should always question and verify its authenticity, especially if there was no way to substantiate it.
During the question-answer session, HU students asked a number of questions about broadcast journalism, fake news and its negative impact on journalism. Answering the questions, Limbourg said that everyone had to value the facts and dismiss all sensationalism regarding newsgathering.
The lecture was held at Habib’s Soorty Lecture Hall — moderated by Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Dr Christopher Taylor.