A Student Journalist Embraces Print as the Best Defense Against Fake News

“In a world where fake news runs rampant, online publications do little to mitigate the problem; in fact, they worsen it.”

You might expect this quote to be from an established media exec, someone who fails to see the value of digital news for a new generation of consumers.

Surprising – and refreshingly – it’s the voice of the next generation of media consumers.

“In a time where virtually every sector of human life is becoming dominated by technology – from everyday shopping to art and science – it seems only natural that the proliferation of information should follow this path too,” writes Rory Biggs O’May in The Student, a weekly indie newspaper published by students at the University of Edinburgh. “There are many people in the media today who focus their efforts entirely on the transition from print to online publications. But maybe we should be more skeptical of this seemingly unavoidable change.”

O’May outlines the typical arguments in favor of digital – speed, cost, efficiency – then does an excellent job of explaining why these very traits (we call them fast, cheap and easy) serve to denigrate journalistic integrity. 

“Online publications focus on speed and efficiency at the potential cost of legitimacy, promoting lazy journalism that ‘doesn’t have time’ to properly fact-check or critically analyze its output as deadlines shorten and the news-cycle condenses,” O’May writes. “Printed papers, on the other hand, have no choice but to spend time, money, and effort on ensuring a high quality of output, taking the necessary steps to check facts and suitably analyze what is being published. Blogs take minutes to write, papers take days to publish. As a result, the material published by print media tends to be more detailed, more analytical, more reliable, and more credible than its online counterpart.”

As media consumers, our confidence is shaken almost daily by the latest fake news scandal or data breach, as our trust in online media erodes. Print, as O’May writes, remains an important part of “the resistance against misinformation, fake news and lazy journalism – some of the most important issues that plague the media today.”

It’s encouraging to see such profound understanding of the current crisis in Western media, explained so succinctly by a young voice in the field. It’s time we start listening more carefully to what the next generation will demand of us.