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PR helps news media counter misinformation

Image source: Antony Mayfield via Flickr

Countering the spread of misinformation has grown into a major challenge for newsrooms, new research reveals.

Although less than half of journalists surveyed say misinformation affects their daily work, 75% of news managers are concerned about the impact of misinformation on their industry, according to the 2019 State of Technology in Global Newsrooms from the International Center for Journalists.  Concerns about trust are highest in North America, where 37% of news managers view building trust as a major challenge.

Most news organizations are trying to tackle misinformation and build trust, often with the help of digital tools, the research finds.

More than 50% of journalists surveyed say they regularly use digital tools to fact-check information.

Only 11% used any kind of social media verification tools in 2017. That number has more than doubled this year. Currently, one-quarter of journalists use the tools at least weekly, and more than one-third of news managers report the same.

One-third of news organizations have dedicated fact-checkers on staff, and 44% of newsrooms and 37% of journalists have engaged in more fact-checking activities over the past year.

In an effort to build trust, news managers are featuring more public interest stories and citing more sources. Nearly half are doing better at separating news and opinion pieces.

The Role PR in Building Trust

A lack of public trust in the media harms PR’s ability to promote corporate messages. PR can and should help restore that trust. To help build trust in the media, PR pros can supply the media only accurate information, be transparent with corporate news, and use a media monitoring tool to uncover misleading and false information.

The survey also provides insights into potential opportunities for PR.

Small newsrooms are expanding. While most newsrooms continue to cut staff, nearly half of outlets with 25 or fewer employees have grown over the last two years. Most of those are digital.

The takeaway: Targeting small, digital outlets may provide PR opportunities. Small newsrooms are more likely cover small communities and local news. A media monitoring tool can uncover appropriate niche websites in today’s fragmented media landscape.

While government and politics dominate story topics, about a third of all journalists now regularly cover education, the economy and health. Radio outlets are most likely to cover specialized beats – 42% cover education and 43% cover health, compared to 27% of websites that cover these topics.

Media pitches on specialized topics, especially to niche or trade publications, may see more opportunities.

Data journalism is clearly on the rise. More newsrooms view data journalism favorably. Most journalists believe data journalism improves quality and productivity, but don’t always have the necessary experience or resources to dig into dense data. Journalists want more training in data journalism than any other area.

The takeaway: PR pros can gain media placements with data public relations – telling stories based on data.  PR teams can analyze public databases, their company’s internal data, and social media analytics to uncover insights that will gain the attention of journalists.

Bottom Line: New research delivers a wealth of information on newsroom practices and trends around the world, most notably efforts to combat the spread of misinformation. PR pros can take advantage of those trends to improve their media pitches and spread their corporate messages.