Professor: News platforms change, but remaining 'fair and balanced' shouldn't

- As the editor-in-chief of his college's newspaper, Miki Shine is frustrated with the state of news today.  He understands there is a new era for news, and it's a long way from the days of the newspaper as the only source of news.

“Just the idea that, that kind of print is going out of style is really sad to me and we have to learn to adjust," said Shine, who oversees the University of South Florida's student-run newspaper, The Oracle. "The reputation in the country is abysmal right now."

Thirty people staffed The Oracle in its heyday. Now, with mostly online content, the job gets done with about six. Shine is adjusting.

On the other side of USF's campus, professor Jeanette Abrahamsen teaches broadcast news and news writing to a new digital generation of journalists.  

“We have to change our approach," she said. "We have to reach people at times that are convenient to them on platforms that are convenient to them. Now, there’s Twitter. Now, they don’t need us to tell them what happened. Now, we need to shift to really explain why. More now than ever, we need to explain the context and verify what people are saying."

Times are changing, but Shine believes being fair and balanced -- telling the truth -- will never go out of style. 

As a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg,  Al Tompkins agrees.

“The true tenants of journalism have not changed in my life," he said, but he's concerned about a growing trend: this notion of "fake news."

"When we first started talking," he told FOX 13's Laura Moody, "I hated that phrase, 'fake news.' It was used for everything. It was used for things you didn't agree with, but I’ve realized there really is such a thing, as long as you put information on it. Sometimes, we get information wrong, sometimes our sources are wrong, sometimes we misunderstand. That’s not fake news.”

That, he says, is misinformation. 

But there is intent to mislead out there. Disinformation, said Tompkins, is the most destructive kind of information.

"It's not accurate. I'm only telling you this for maybe one of two reasons: a profit motive, a political motive or maybe I just want to cause some chaos and distract you from actually going on pay attention to this and not that," he noted. 

There's a third kind of information we get every day, and that's propaganda.

“Only reporting things with which you agree, that’s propaganda," he said, "Propaganda is I want you to think in a certain way ... but we have to recognize that this is part of news because politicians use propaganda all the time.”

The advice he has for Miki Shine and other budding journalists is to be relentless and commit to a single core value.

In the end, he said, it's up to the consumers to be informed, to read as much as they can from as many sources as possible. Getting all your news from one place is the surest way to get caught up in the spin.

Laughing, Tompkins added, "Be a good consumer. Your mama taught you to shop around and that's what you should do for information."

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