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Fake News – A Critical Issue for Communicators

Guest Post By Glynn Young

You know “fake news” has quickly come of age when it already has its own Wikipedia entry

In addition to turning politics upside down, the election of 2016 and its aftermath has raised critical issues for communications professionals — fake news. This has led to “alternative facts” (about which National PRSA issued a position statement) and governance questions for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.

And while we’re learning what “fake news” is and how to recognize it and combat it, we’re learning that “fake news” is rather elastic and can often creep into mainstream news media as well.

In early January, quoting an anonymous Administrative source, The Washington Post reported that the U.S. electric grid had been hacked by the Russians through a utility in Vermont. The story turned out to be less than accurate – the electric grid was never hacked; instead, a piece of malware was found on an employee’s laptop. It took the Post a week to make the correction, and then the correction was never acknowledged.

Was that fake news? Lousy reporting? Trusting the wrong source?

We have a President who regularly tweets. The Administration and the mainstream media at war. Fake news factories. News commentators more than willing to err if they think it scores points. Trust in the news media at an all-time low. Social media upending traditional news media. Brands stepping their toes into political and social issues to find their feet bitten off.

This is one crazy world for communicators. 

Fake news is a critical issue we all face as communicators and as citizens. One of the first communications firms to begin tackling fake news was Weber Shandwick. Join us on March 22nd at Weber Shandwick’s offices to hear from several executives on what they’re learning and doing about the fake news phenomenon — and the evolving role of PR professionals in managing reputation risk. Check out all the event details on the PRSA St. Louis website!

Glynn Young is the Communications Chair for PRSA St. Louis and retired from Monsanto, which he says may have more experience dealing with fake news than any other entity on the planet.

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