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During the SIGNIS World Congress 2022, held under the theme “Peace in the Digital World”, we explored the themes of global wars and the culture of friction, and hate in the digital world towards the tasks journalists must undertake to support peace.
At the International Journalists Forum, we had the honor of interviewing Mr. Jack Barton - CGTN America Foreign Correspondent on breaking news and war zones - on honest journalism and how we should view and report on global issues.
Barton began his speech by pointing out the upsurge in the amount of fake news and misinformation as a direct result of the digital revolution. He stressed the emphasis on how this spreading of misinformation comes not only from individuals, but also and especially from state actors, journalists and professionals working within the media industry.
Quoting the words of the American thinker John Naisbitt, Mr. Barton explained we are in an era that is “drowning in information, but starving in knowledge”. According to him this “starving” comes directly from the growing tendency of stripping information down to the basics, in order to better fit the short attention span of online platforms’ users. The journalist also observes how the internet is extremely biased and polarized according to each individual’s data and point of view. This obviously tricks digital media users into a bubble in which they will acquire information solely based on their position on a given argument, leaving little to no room for debate and critical thinking sustained by data.
Jack Barton later summarized the problems that afflict news coverage and its consumption into two categories. The first one is the ability of social media and messaging apps to fuel one news or another. This tendency, according to the journalist, is also affecting traditional media and pushing them towards the usage of emotive content and fast information - a propensity that journalists and media professionals must try to fight.
The second problem he identified lies in the speed at which information must be diffused nowadays: the tight schedule given to journalists to come out with news leaves them with very little time to fact-check and in-depth investigations. This naturally leads to the aforementioned spreading of fake news within state actors and traditional press.
In the final part of his speech, Barton prompts the audience to fight the urge of over-simplifying complex problems such as climate change and the war in Ukraine, and to awaken their critical spirits by not seeing the world through the lenses of an Instagram feed, with neat and easy images, but by always analyzing as many sources as possible and spend time getting information from all the parties involved.
For Jack Barton, only by doing this “journalists can take back their place as a beacon of light in the fog of the Digital Age”.
Watch his full speech here.