Thursday, September 26, 2019
Notes from ONA19
Last week I had the privilege to be one of 2000+ attendees of ONA19, the Online News Association conference in New Orleans. I am still buzzing with excitement, filled with new ideas and information I want to take action on and share with my colleagues at Newswise.
Below are a few of the major takeaways I took from the conference I’d like to share with you.
1. We are on the front lines in the battle of disinformation, and in some ways, we are losing the battle. In our smartphone age, information spreads fast and with little verification. Authenticity is difficult to track down. We are entering a new area of manipulated visual content, where AIs can change the words of a speaker in a video, or visually change the speaker’s face to reflect the altered dialogue. As purveyors of information, we can set the record straight by supplying the tools to verify the facts. This can be done by supplying the most direct route of authenticity, whether that’s linking to the original verified news release (raw and right from the source) before the message has been changed to appeal to the most clicks, or supplying a direct link to a study. We can also combat misinformation by fact checking. This is why Newswise is excited to offer a fact check submission to our members.
2. In reporting about climate change, focusing on the health crisis caused by the fast changing climate is a way to make “the science” more relevant and meaningful. As an alternative to focusing on melting glaciers and polar bears (not that that isn’t important), try directing the attention to the children suffering from heat and extreme weather. Health care professionals (and those that speak for them) can acknowledge the health risks caused by a warming world. Physicians won’t be under the same scrutiny, questioned about bias and credibility. Also, by focusing on localized solutions that actually improve people’s lives, you can get your message to resonate to a wider scope of readers. Climate reporters, don’t forget about pointing out some of the positives steps that we’ve already taken to address this global issue.
3. When you’re pitching something, be it an idea to your editors or to journalists, pitch the STORY and not the topic. Be ready to answer the question: So what? Don’t overpromise. Find your news peg, and be able to discuss what makes it unique. What is the headline to YOUR STORY?