“Move fast and break things” does not work in journalism

“Move fast and break things” does not work in journalism

By moving fast and breaking things in journalism:

  • you transform readers in junkies for sensations & scandals.
  • you steal days & months of your readers’ lives. Btw, how much time do you spend reading about the “10 most irrelevant facts about random people” per day?
  • you lie millions of parents who risk the lives of their children because of you (see The Danger of the Anti-Vaccine Movement).
  • you can rig the election results of a country (see Fake US Election News is a Global Problem).

Facebook‘s sexy motto — move fast and break things — does not work in journalism.

It does not work in science. It barely works in programming. (Btw, facebook, thank you for telling me that some of my friends have died recently.) Not a surprise facebook changed its motto in 2014 to something less viral.

Buggy news reports cannot be unread. Buggy news reports cannot be really unshared. Buggy news reports can be updated and improved but many readers will not read the updated versions.

Fake sensationalist headlines & stories are a virus. If you do not get vaccinated, you endanger yourself and the entire society. A few ways to boost our immune system when dealing with fake news:

What to do as a journalist?

  • Move fast with stable infrastructure of facts.
  • Build a relationship with your readers, don’t rely on sensational headlines and the next viral article.
  • educate your reader about the time and effort invested in your articles (include time spent researching & writing, number of interviews, other costs)
  • experiment with business models from other industries. I’ve recently thought about monthly subscriptions to single journalists vs to entire media outlets. Give me a ping if you are interested in the idea.

What to do as a reader?

  • demand from your news providers (media, tech companies, social networks) to filter/mark fake news for you and your friends (see Facebook and Google take action against fake news sites). Use the new fake news reporting features.
  • start a constructive conversation with your friends who read sensationalist media and share potentially fake news. Discuss with them in a not-patronizing way, don’t challenge their values.
  • turn off ad-blocker for globally respected media, subscribe to local media ($5–10 per month won’t hurt you)
  • Watch Spotlight (the movie is better than the trailer!)