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Trusting your news. Why being accurate is less common than you think

Updated: Mar 30

I have been thinking about the reliability of news content a lot lately. This was sparked by a couple of things; an interview with a feisty geopolitics' expert and by the coverage of the football team I support.

The interviewee said to me that we often do not question news content enough because we are not familiar with the issue/country/story. He said when it is our own town, specialism or sports team, we often notice factual errors. But that does not happen when we consume news about other topics. He was talking about the state of the world in 2024 and saying that the media had made it all seem much worse than it actually is because it - in his words - prefers bad news. I instinctively pushed back against this, defending my industry. But it did make me think about content and how much I question certain things.

The football team I support has been in the news a lot recently and it is evident when the bigger platforms and outlets decide it is time to cover the disgrace that has unfolded at Reading FC, that they have little idea what they are talking about. Facts are often wrong and the framing of the story is often inaccurate. This underlines how journalism often scratches the surface and so much content is hastily created with very little research. Because I know the topic well, I can question what I am hearing or reading.

The same happened when the Queen died. I know London and Windsor well and the route taken on the day of her funeral. During the coverage a lot of the references from presenters and journalists were wrong. Most of the audience would not have noticed but because I know the topic I counted dozens of geographical mistakes. Most of us hear news coverage and assume that it is accurate and we are being told the truth. Often though it isn't, or the coverage is biased (accidentally or deliberately). I've also seen this in economic reporting, the war in Ukraine and for stories covering the NHS and conditions like diabetes.

Perhaps this is why trust in news has fallen. The division politics of the last decade, combined with the noise of social media, means that opinion and bias dominates a lot of what we read or heard. My interviewee was basically suggesting to me that a lot of journalism and reporting is misleading and sensationalist. Or maybe even worse - just plainly wrong. The coverage of Reading FC has made me think that maybe they had a point. It is why properly researched journalism is so important.

The key here is that traditional and 'trusted' platforms have a duty to make sure the standard of reporting is high. As a journalist I always question everything. It is the first step of good reporting to ask the obvious questions and to try and verify what you are being told. In a fast-paced news environment, where it is often about speed or opinion - that is being lost or forgotten.

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