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Fighting fake news with Trust Chains

Fake news has been around longer than news itself, but it took someone as influential and opinionated as US President Donald Trump to breathe new life into it. While critics say Trump’s “fake news” is simply news he dislikes, the issue has more profound ramifications for modern free-press democracies, making us question who and what we can trust. But all is not lost. Fake news can be conquered, especially if each and every one of us works on our Trust Chains. … Read More

The aerobic art of interviewing

One of the most important skills of great journalism is not so much the questions we ask as the answers we hear. We get that by focusing on our interviewees and listening intently to what they say. Award-winning writer and broadcaster Siobhán McHugh writes about ‘aerobic listening’. It can be exhausting but it helps subjects to open up – like a force field. Here she shares the secret of aerobic listening in difficult interviews. Read More

Who else if not whistleblowers?

Barely a day goes by in western democracies without some new exploitation of public trust, major abuse of the law or plain old government corruption being exposed by the media’s sanitising light. But while journalists are beavering away on investigations, the initial spark is almost always lit by a whistleblower. As the latest scandal touching one of Australia’s biggest companies shows, whistleblowers get little thanks. Read More

American exceptionalism built wall with the world.

It is the fate of all empires to be despised by their vassals. But that was before the Information Age. Now all bets are off. Now empires have the media tools to mould their image overseas while their foreign subjects can see right into the heart of their overlord’s domain. So why are Americans making such a mess of being a superpower? And what role do the media play in building a wall between the US and the rest of the world? Read More

Finding truth through common sense

In the days before the digital revolution, discovering truth seemed a relatively simple matter – find people we could trust and go with what they said. With the Internet and social media, things have become a lot more complicated. Information is everywhere and journalists are losing the ability to determine who to trust. So, let’s put some science back into common sense and use it to fight the scourge of the 21st Information Century – fake news. Read More

A right to be wrong?

At the height of Australia’s bushfire emergency, Michael Pengilly, the mayor of Kangaroo Island in Australia, attacked climate scientists and former US president Barack Obama, saying climate change was not connected with the island’s horrific fires. When criticised online, Pengilly said he had a right to air his opinions. He was not the first person in the democratic world to claim such a “right”. But does it exist? Read More

Whistleblowers – conscience of a shameless age

With the continuing persecution of Julian Assange, one of our country’s and this century’s most famous whistleblowers, it is timely that all nations – but especially democracies – remind themselves that a whistleblower is not a traitor, just someone who sees something wrong, consults their conscience and exposes the wrongdoing contrary to the wishes of those with power to conceal it from their fellow citizens. Read More

Distrust is the greatest threat to peace

We live in dangerous times, in a world of crumbling trust. The fear and confusion this engenders has spread across almost all societies around the world – free and oppressive, democratic and authoritarian, east and west, north and south, rich and poor. Increasingly, no-one is immune and if we are unaware of the crisis that is because either we are the victims of our government’s duplicity or we are wilfully blinkered. Read More

Kicking the can of liberty along the road

Issues of freedom of speech come in all shapes and sizes, from those central to democracy to those that are just cover for personal obsessions. Two current cases in Australia are just the most recent in a seemingly endless cycle of outrage then nothing getting fixed … kicking the can. One involves government oppression of whistle-blowers and the media. The other a millionaire sportsman asked to choose between the pitch and the pulpit. Read More

Facts or fiction: Putting the writer inside the story

News reporting and journalists are under attacks not witnessed in a generation or more. How much is our fault and what can be done? Low public trust is partly driven by self-interested claims of “fake news” and partly because a race to the bottom. Perhaps also we have played too close to the fires of fiction and been scorched. If it is too late to firewall journalism, how can writers navigate the borderland between fact and fiction? Read More

The miracle of monochrome

Black & white photography has existed for almost 200 years and even today remains a preferred format for many photojournalists. While they may shoot in colour, their best or most important work is often reproduced in monochrome. This image of the famous Black Power salute at the 1968 Mexico Olympics was shot in both colour and black &… Read More