By Ester Athanásio
Instead of fake news, we can promote good news. Not just real news, but good.
For a long time, people from different parts of the world have grown tired of bad news. They are pessimistic about the future, the world and their communities. They don’t want to watch TV or read newspapers because most of the news is about bad things — but the consequence is worse. In Brazil, for example, after three years with hard corruption coverage, 43 percent of Brazilians prefer dictatorship instead of democracy. Why? Due to social problems, environmental problems and personal problems, among others. Those problems are real, of course, but what about all the other positive aspects democracy has? What about solutions for our collective terrible problems? Is giving up democracy the best way to solve corruption? This is difficult to believe.
Besides the traditional bad news, today we have the risk of living in a (mis)information age. We have technology to make everybody powerful. People from all parts of the world can be reading this text now. They can comment on it and share it. It means we have the tools to show some information fast and in an easy way. However, what about the quality of this content you are reading? If you want to know if this text is true and if you can trust me, you have to do some research about my name, who I am, and what this website is. If you trust YLAI, if this program has credibility, you will probably trust my words as well. You could disagree, of course, but you know it is not fake news.
Most people don’t care what the source of information is. They just share what supports their opinion about something. The problem today is believing in any kind of information without checking the facts. That’s dangerous for people’s public image, businesses, politics, and mainly democracy. When lies are frequently shared, we cannot stop them and they become truths for many people.
So, we have two big problems: a lot of bad news in traditional media and unaccountable fake news on “new media” where content is sent out without any real journalism checks or rules. But, is this text bad news? No, let’s go to some solutions!
How can we solve both of these problems?
We know the question is complex and so are the solutions. As a journalist and as a person who is interested in using the press to support social and environmental causes, I started my company, DePropósito Causes Communication, in the south of Brazil to show what social entrepreneurs are doing and, at the same time, promote more good news related to their work, from and for our communities. I believe good news has a power to change minds to do something to make the world better. Only knowing problems exist is not enough. We need to know the way to cause positive impact, and I know many people in Latin America who are doing it!
When we promote news from those projects, we are making them more visible to the public eye and we are helping them to grow stronger, as well as to improving their chances to have contact with investors, volunteers, customers and people in general. At the same time, we are adding more value to traditional press — the one where the data is checked before sharing it. We are using the media to help social causes.
We believe in communication as a cause too. So, we think we have to help journalists to understand their social role and understand they need to change their minds to promote more good news. At the same time, we know that professional journalism is an important partner in order to fight against disinformation and to be able to check data and share real news with our population.
In partnership with the YLAI Network, we are promoting the #YLAIVerifies campaign. The first step to change this big issue is to stop, reflect and verify before sharing any information. During the next weeks, we will be sharing other content to discuss the impact that comes from fake news and how this affects your businesses and your communities. We will also be sharing ideas on how we can change it around Latin America. We are many young leaders. That is our responsibility and we are not alone. Come on!
Ester Athanásio is a 2018 YLAI Fellow, Brazilian journalist, university professor and founder of DePropósito Comunicação de Causas, which offers communication services and specialized training in social and environmental causes.
*We thank Alex Solano, a YLAI Fellow from Costa Rica, for proofreading this text.
Este artigo está disponível em português.