Be right, not first: Journalism integrity remains the key

Gemima Cody. Picture supplied
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Our need for credible information is being undermined by the impact of social media. Alyssa Batticciotto and Ben Pascuzzi report on the future of journalism.
Gemima Cody. Picture supplied

The future of journalism is secure because people will always need credible information, senior journalists say.

However, social media has placed an emphasis on being the first to break news, which puts pressure on trusted media values such as credibility and fact-checking.

The Age food editor Gemima Cody says there will always be a need for news and for “people to tell a story”.

“My professional reputation is staked on credibility, if I’m incorrect then my word is worth nothing,” she says.

However, the traditional reliability of journalism is being challenged by an arms race to break the news, an environment enhanced by social media.

Jack Heverin

SEN radio host and commentator Jack Heverin says it “almost doesn’t matter if you’re right, it matters if you’re first.”

“Twitter is changing journalism in a lot of ways, but you have to [navigate] through and make sure the information you’re getting is right.”

Decreased funding, free news and closure of media outlets is also contributing to the decline of reliable news, journalists and organisations.

Cody said payment held the publication to a certain standard.

“We work towards getting paid subscribers, which means the work has to be good and relevant,” she said. 

“It doesn’t have to be ‘click grabby’ stuff because people will leave you if you give them disappointing content, especially when they can get it for free.”

Wrong reporting can have severe consequences, especially when people rely on information for safety. 

“The coverage by the ABC during the bushfire season has saved people’s lives,” Cody said, and it’s essential it’s correct.

Getting it wrong can also harm a journalist’s reputation. Heverin says he believes being wrong will supersede any benefit a reporters gets from being the first to break the story.

“Mitch Cleary is one who prides himself on getting it right rather than being first, and I’m sure that those journalists who prioritise getting it right will make it long term,” Heverin said.

“I hope that mantra of being right rather than first is never lost.”