In a day and age when talk of “fake news” has become more and more prevalent, relationships between news organizations and audiences have drastically changed because people don’t know what is true and what is not.
And two Mississippi media executives agree that social media is the biggest contributor to the problem.
“It used to be that you would go to experts,” said Gavin Maliska, general manager and news director of The Delta News in Greenville.
The media, he said, would ask them a question and get their special knowledge to report to the audience.
“Now,” he said, “people just throw it out on Facebook or Twitter or wherever and everybody’s got an opinion, whether they have any knowledge or not.”
Mary Carroll Sullivan, executive producer at WCBI in Columbus, says people often will believe whatever they come across on social media. People have the idea that because they saw it on Facebook, it must be true. However, much of what appears on social media is not fact but merely opinion.
Sullivan is troubled by this blurring of fact and opinion. “For a lot of people, that’s the only source of information, or it is their main source of information.”
The idea that everyone has to have an opinion and share it on social media has now extended to the major news organizations. Maliska noted that networks such as Fox and CNN have opinion leaders on screen all sitting around a table simply stating their opinions, not facts. Viewers often hear these opinions and believe them to be facts.
When discussing the presence of these network commentators, Maliska said, “They’re no experts, and I think that has a lot to do with fake news because people can’t separate an opinion from a fact.”
When asked what consumers can do to distinguish between the two, Maliska responded, “We do have to question what the sources are.”
However, as long as social media persists, people are still going to have trouble determining what is fact and what is opinion.
“Something extraordinary is going to have to happen to end the whole thing, ” Maliska said.