Fighting Fake News: Our agenda has been, and forever will be, standing up for our town

When two of the most powerful men in the world become so obsessed with a concept that it gains its own entry in the dictionary within months, you know it has to be big news.

Friday, 5th May 2017, 9:19 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:59 pm
Editorial image

Used to possibly skew election results, take control of debates and generally misinform the public, fake news crops up in the actual news almost every day lately, whether because Donald Trump is railing against its

spread (real or imagined) or it is knocking millions off the share price of Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook.

Most fake news - web pages, promoted through social media that masquerade as articles researched by trained journalists - is harmless, meant in the spirit of fun and very clearly tongue in cheek if you take the time to read even a couple of lines.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But the worst examples are mean spirited and pretty dangerous and here's why.

Free countries like the United Kingdom rely on an impartial media to give us an idea of what is going on in the world. Well a local newspaper would say that, wouldn't it?

Think about it, though. It's not much of an exaggeration to say most of what we believe to be true outside our personal experience comes from the TV news, newspapers or news websites.

Therefore what we know about our real world - indeed what we think of as reality - hinges very strongly on what we think of as factual news. That would seem pretty high stakes.

And that's how it has been until relatively recently when some nefarious people realised that in our throwaway society, millions of people now judge the veracity of information by the number of times it is shared or liked on Facebook and don't take the logical next step which would be to find out if who is saying these things is credible,professional, uncompromised or accountable.

Before fake news, we lived in a world where if you said something had happened it was rumour until a bona fide news organisation confirmed it. Now we often don't know if a news organisation even exists beyond a Moldovan teenager's bedroom.

Perhaps that is the nub of the peril that fake news represents. Yes, everyone knows national newspapers have political agendas and need to keep circulation figures respectable.

But at least you know the Guardian is going to be left and the Daily Mail is going to be right (though not always correct in any sense).

With fake news you don't know who the authors are, where they are, why they are pushing out this line. You dont know the agenda. You dont even know for sure they exist.

Now, we at the Chron know full well that when we start talking about fake news, readers - as is their right - will post comments denigrating the standard of our journalism. That's inevitable.However the crucial difference between our reporters and pedlars of fake news is that when we get things wrong, we can be held to account. We have a reputation to uphold and are regulated by an industry body.

We are finding, curating checking facts for one simple reason: we believe strongly that the Chron serves all of Northampton by holding the powerful to account.

In the past couple of years we have asked tough questions about the Sixfields loan, crime figures, unaccountable firms spending millions of public cash, councillors who refused to pay their own council tax bills, even dementia patients trapped in Northampton General Hospital for up to a year. We go to evening planning meetings so you don't have to, cover the courts to uphold the democratic principle of open justice.

This is the bread and butter of real journalism.

And how can you tell the difference? The Chron logo. It has stood for justice, for impartiality, for standing up to the strong on behalf of ordinary folk, for Northampton, for generations. Since before fake news and after it.

Why are we not fake news? Because you know what the Chron is and where it is. You know us and we know you.

If we don't do a good job, you tell us and we respond.

But you can be assured that our only agenda has, and will forever be, standing up for our town.