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November 6, 2019

Your Right to Know: Who is leading the Media Freedom conversation?

The Your Right to Know Campaign was established in response to deteriorating media freedom. It prompted an unprecedented collaboration between competitors including Nine, News Corp, the ABC, SBS, The Guardian and journalists’ union in the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. All in an effort to call for reforms to protect public interest from Australia.

Politicians dominate the discussion

On Monday 21 October, Australian media organisations blacked-out text on print newspapers, instead of showing front-page headlines. The first bold statement instigated by campaign members. As a result, it created a lot of chatter in the media –  mentions spiked at 3,042 across across social and traditional media.

Data analysed by Isentia, shows in the week October 21 to October 25 2019 there were a total of 6,242 mentions of “press freedom.” 

While it was the media who started the campaign on Monday, through the week politicians had 60% share of voice on the topic. Prominent journalists followed with 22.8% and CEOs of media organisations 15.3%.

Groups leading the conversations. Key term used ‘Press Freedom’ 21 – 25 October 2019

Top spokespeople

Despite journalists and media organisations instigating the campaign, politicians dominated the conversations. The top spokespeople discussing the topic for the week period were:

1.Scott Morrison, Australian Prime Minister – 95 mentions

2.Anthony Albanese, Federal Opposition Leader – 38 mentions

3. Barnaby Joyce, Nationals MP – 33 mentions

4.Hugh Marks, CEO Nine Entertainment – 33 mentions

5. Campbell Reid, Senior Journalist, News Corp – 32 mentions


Dominating the discussions, politicians generated negative sentiment around “press freedom”.

Sentiment of the keyword “press freedom” in the media from 21-25 October

Background

Over the past two decades, 75 laws related to secrecy and spying have been passed through parliament. These laws criminalise some practices within journalism and penalise whistleblowers. Government wrongdoings could be hidden and important decisions regarding public information may be concealed. As a result, Australia has been described by the New York Times as the world’s most secretive democracy. 

Media organisations are taking action with the ‘Your Right to Know’ campaign. They’re determined to change the government’s approach to media freedom so they can provide Australians with essential information.  They’re pressing for the introduction of a Media Freedom Act, which they say would be advantageous for national security, press freedom and democracy, and ensure legitimate journalism is not subject to criminal charges.

If you would like to receive unparalleled media insight or to better understand trends in the media, get in touch with us today.

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Alert the media! Audiences are more informed than ever but can there be too much of a good thing? Experts say that the internet has democratised free speech, but when there is too much content to choose from, we're left overwhelmed, trying to escape a boundless house haunted by trolls, clickbait and conspiracy theorists.

 Isentia’s webinar, Misinformation: Stopping the Spread, brought together three expert communicators, journalists, data analysts and fighters of fake news to discuss how PR and comms professionals can best navigate misinformation.   

Follow these tips so your audiences find your communications and social media strategy is informed and reliable.

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1. Conserve public opinion that uses facts 

While the internet, including social media, can be a hub of helpful information from DIY projects, recipes and tips to fight misinformation… It's also an open platform for anyone to post and publicise anything. Pulsar CEO and Cofounder Fran D'Orazio encourages comms professionals to promote public opinion that's built on a contextually rich foundation so that the everyday scroller sees more than a title and a tagline. 

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2. Call out misinformation, even your own

Content creator @sydneyraz, known for his "things to know before you're in your 30s" content, corrected his misinformation post from 2021, where he said you could store your avocados in water to stop them browning. Reputable news outlets, food experts and the FDA responded to his original post, saying this avo hack could actually put you at risk of salmonella and listeria poisoning. Unless misinformation is called out and unreliable content is debunked, media consumers will struggle to know what is correct and who to trust.

3. Seek out the experts

If your misinformation senses are tingling, don't hesitate to send content and questions to groups with expertise in this area. Initiatives like RMIT Factlab and The Disinformation Project investigate misinformation on media platforms. RMIT Factlab takes misinformation Meta has identified, and then fact checks it. They then write an article, post it on their site, and provide it to Meta, who attaches the URL to the original fake news post - offering the opportunity for people to read the truth first. Throughout this process, Meta, using its algorithms, downgrades fake news, so it's not seen as often. "It is better to work with them [Meta], so some misinformation is downgraded, rather than not having a relationship with them," says Sushi Das, Assistant Director of RMIT Factlab. 

4. Share truth

Kate-Hannah of the Disinformation Project recommends equipping people with tools like counterspeech to use in discourse spaces. Think about how stories and fact-checking tools can divert a negative conversation and direct it onto the main issue or reveal more context. Empathy, humour and reminding perpetrators of ill-informed public messaging of the consequences to spreading hate or dangerous speech, are some communication strategies to use.

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5. Ensure a source is reliable 

"Everybody is sort of a publisher now," says Sushi Das. We all deserve to feel like we're in a safe space, but the ungovernable realm of the online world puts safety into question. We are all tapping into our smart devices for news content but the key is having high standards of the publishers and creators whose content you consume. Traditional media is still held to account with regulations to follow and trained journalists on staff - posing a strong force against misinformation. With standards, regulations and trained journalists, their outputs are a strong force against exposure to misinformation. The moment a news story goes online, the context is at risk of being blurred, whether a filter is used or not.

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7. Consider framing

There are multiple ways to frame a conversation or narrative. Kate-Hannah says, "there is a responsibility to tell the truth, but in ways that help people make good decisions." People need to be reading the news, not switching off. When reading or producing news content consider how you want readers to feel, but also what you want them to do with that information. Hannah during the webinar, referred to an instance in New Zealand where exposure in the city of Whangarei to Covid-19 spurred people to get tested even in the intense heat. Hannah holds journalists to account for their negative framing of that event, and offers an alternative, that those lining up to get tested in those conditions are ensuring the safety of their community.        

8. Prioritise what issues you’re going to speak to 

Fran D'Orazio says there is a big job in predicting what narratives will spin out of control, "if you try and attack all the different fronts that get opened on the web, it's difficult to make an impact." Brands must choose what battles to fight and prioritise who should be answered. Develop a response framework for your brand to use when it’s found to be in the middle of a misinformed online dispute. Answer these questions, who are those agitators that need a response and what should they, along with their followers, take away from your response? 

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9. Anticipate rather than confront 

Anticipate the impact of a narrative on particular audiences. If you confront an audience already exposed to a misinformation narrative, they are unlikely to change their mind. If you anticipate them and introduce that audience to a truthful record, you may manage to immunise them once they encounter the myths. 

10. Improve your media and news literacy

It may be your first impulse to hit that share button but "stop and think before you share anything. That share button is a trigger." Sushi Das says, "everyone needs to be aware of themselves." Question what you see and how the content makes you feel. Don't just read a headline and share it with your communities; use resources like First Draft and NewsWhip to better verify what you and your audiences are consuming online. 

Extensive research into misinformation is showing that people are getting splintered into different realities based on the news they consume and the algorithms that continue the pattern of content. By developing our media literacy and sharing the truth with our communities, experts say we can change people's minds before they engage with falsehoods. It Just goes to show, don't keep an avocado in water…or accept everything you see online as fact.

 If you see something that is mis or disinformation, send them to initiatives like, info@thedisinfoproject.org or RMIT Factlab.

Watch Isentia's webinar, "Misinformation: Stopping the Spread", for more.

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Building a Communications Strategy in the era of Misinformation
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Credit keeps the world economy moving, with Visa, MasterCard and American Express brand names easily identifiable. As time passes by, we can see a definitive shift taking place, with each of these brands increasingly becoming part of conversations taking place around the world.

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