Contextualising Fake News in Post-truth Era

Date Posted: June 3, 2019 Last Modified: June 3, 2019
Contextualising Fake News in Post-truth Era: Journalism Education in India Photo: Colin Behrens, Pixabay

The current debate on fake news has been heavily American and Euro-centred with a focus on post-truth politics and the tactical use of the term 'alternative facts'. However, the advent of fake news and a post-truth world has far reaching implications beyond the Western world. This paper tries to examine the impact of post-truth politics on journalism practice and training in India. While in America the issue of fake news need to be tackled with engaging with the non-elite audience and the rise of a fact-checking culture, in India the problem involves dealing with corrupt or inactive regulatory frameworks, institutions and out-dated curricula in University-based journalism programmes. 

  • While the solution towards misinformation lies in sticking or going back to the basic tenets of journalistic honesty, scepticism and cross-checking it is an uphill task in India. The country's media watchdog, the independent Press Council which has the authority to clamp down on fake news and state-sponsored lies has not made any significant moves in that direction yet.
  • Media organisations have also acted in an irresponsible manner by publishing fake news. Even when such instances are called out, these media organisations tend to not issue an apology let alone corrections to the story. The publication of fake news is treated as collateral damage within the industry.
  • Even academics who teach journalism ironically lack any real journalism experience. A majority of them are scholars rather than trainers and do not possess any hand-on experience of journalistic processes of verification, inclusion of evidence and sequencing of information and so on. This is contrary to the academics in Europe, the United States, UK and Australia, where journalism education is carried out by journalists and former journalists.
  • The authors suggest an emphasis on learning verification skills as core to journalistic practice for both academic and journalistic enterprises. The current UGC-formulated curricula does not include verification as an important aspect in the constantly evolving media landscape which should be rectified.
  • Similarly, more importance should be given to crowd-sourced methods of information/verification. This falls in line with journalistic practice globally, but is rarely practiced in the Indian context.
  • The mainstream media needs to step up and play a more proactive role in debunking false claims. News organisations, NGOs and academia also need to support independent fact-checking initiatives which can contribute to the debunking genre.