I’m very concerned about the problem of "fake news" and what it means for journalists, politicians and the media-consuming public.
But, really, this isn’t a new concern of mine. For many years, I’ve battled with the concept that the internet is always right.
Increasingly so, it isn’t. Actually, it’s wrong an awful lot.
In 1998, when Jeff Sherman and I launched OnMilwaukee.com, we chose a digital platform not just because we had a crystal ball for the future of media. We also couldn’t afford to print a magazine and city guide; at the time, it was much cheaper to build a website.
Of course, the opposite is now true for us. Our infrastructure, from servers to programmers to designers to bandwidth, is a tremendous expense for our company. At our scale, it would’ve been much cheaper to print OnMilwaukee on newsprint.
However, this was back in the Internet stone age – we built OnMilwaukee from the ground up, before WordPress and other templatized options made it easier to publish something professional-looking. In fact, even as we grow revenue and readership, people still often compare us both to one-person and 1,000-person operations, because the perception is that all online media is basically the same.
That would be like comparing a major daily newspaper to a photocopied neighborhood newsletter. They’re obviously nothing alike.
However, the problem of fake news takes advantage of this perception of homogeneity. At OnMilwaukee, we hire professional journalists and insist on integrity and quality. We don’t always get it right, and while some assume we have a secret politicized agenda, I can tell you honestly that we do the best we can to present well-written, legitimate lifestyle news. We fact check and follow the rules like we learned in journalism school.
Not everybody does.
Some news organizations find themselves too short-staffed to do the great work they used to (see: the Journal Sentinel). Others assume that "first" trumps "best" (see: …Read more...