(a) How should journalists respond to inaccurate, false statements from a source?
(b) How should journalists respond to their audience that propagates the inaccurate, false information?
Explain your position.
(a) Journalists should always vet their sources — especially when interviewing someone who gives a lot of statistics or easily-falsified information. I always make it a point to go through all of my source’s quotes to make sure that everything is clear and accurate. Now, I’ve never had a source provide me inaccurate information, but if I ever did, this is how I would respond:
I would tell my source about their incorrect information to see if they even knew what they were saying was false. Sometimes people just misquote information, we should give our sources the opportunity to correct themselves.
Now, in a situation where a source is blatantly lying to you and they refuse correct themselves, make it a point in the article to mention the fact that they were given the opportunity to correct themselves and they lied anyway.
(b) In most cases, journalists report on what happened — unless it’s an opinion piece, we’re not supposed to tell people how to think, we just tell them what to think about.
If the audience believes inaccurate information — that’s their choice. People can believe what they want because the truth is out there somewhere, see my Discussion #1 post.
I can’t make anyone believe something that they don’t want to — that’s their problem, not mine.
If a media outlet repeatedly publishes inaccurate, misleading information, should it be punished? Censored? Elaborate on what should be done.
If we start to censor media outlets, we enter the grey area of the First Amendment. I don’t agree with media outlets spreading false information — take Alex Jones and InfoWars for example — because it is harmful. But, until they start inciting violence, their right to do that is protected under the Constitution.
However, in the case of Jones above, he has been banned from some social media platforms such as Twitter and I do agree with that because Twitter does not act on behalf of the U.S. government, and as a privately owned organization, they have the right to ban him.
How do we prevent people from believing false information? I don’t know. I can only hope that people have the willpower to find the truth and that some day hate-mongers will no longer have an audience to inject false rhetoric into.