Is Fake News a Real Opportunity for Magazine Media?

By: Caysey Welton

“Fake news” has been dominating the not fake news over the past few months, but especially since Donald Trump took office and began blurring the lines between critical versus phony reporting. President Trump has called out organizations like The New York Times and CNN as fake news organizations because they have, at times, been critical of his policies, actions and words. But regardless of who is or who isn’t producing fake news, the reality is there’s a glut of it, and readers are keen.

Magazine media can capitalize on that notion because of its established, trusted brands. Still, despite that trust, legitimate content producers face an uphill battle because people inherently believe what they want to believe if it aligns with their own ideologies. But that doesn’t mean journalists’ hands are tied. That was a major takeaway from an afternoon panel at the American Magazine Media Conference in New York, on Wednesday, February 8th.

The panel included a handful of top editors from around the consumer magazine space. Liz Vaccariello, editor-in-chief of Meredith’s Parents Network, Adam Moss, editor-in-chief of New York, Cindi Leive, editor-in-chief of Glamour, Jane Francisco, editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping and Jess Cagle, editor-in-chief of People and editorial director of the Time Inc.’s Entertainment Group. The conversation was moderated by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson.

To no surprise, each of the panelists expressed deep concerns about the rise of fake news, and also false information. “I’m worried about the disappearance of facts and information,” Vaccariello said. She indicated that the problem is deeper than just news—inaccurate information is often conveyed through health and science reports as well.

Moss suggested that some of the onus is on social media by no fault of its own. That is, social platforms allow news and information to disseminate quickly—faster than it can be fact checked in many instances.

So what can be done about this problem? Well, for starters they all agreed that, even though speed is important, it shouldn’t be a top priority. “It’s okay to wait. You aren’t going to get fired for waiting, it’s more important to get it right,” Leive said. And Cagle quickly agreed and cited how People holds off on pregnancy announcements until they get confirmation from the source. “We just have to play the long game,” he said. “I’d rather be a little slow on celebrity news, especially with pregnancies. It’s not just the human thing to do, but also the journalistic thing to do.” He added: “But also, we will get the baby photos,” which got several laughs from the hundreds in attendance.

Good Housekeeping isn’t a news organization, but Francisco pointed out how the basic principles of good journalism are what has always guided her brand, and magazine media in general. She stated “research is our stock and trade.” Something that has been core to magazine reporting for decades is what sets it apart in an era of fake news. While fact-checking departments have been scaled back, magazines have and will continue to leave no stone unturned, which could benefit the industry going forward.

By: Caysey Welton

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