'Don't be too gullible!'

'Don't be too gullible!'

Journalist Desmond Allen warns Jamaicans against social media dangers


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

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WITH the growing use of social media, one media practitioner reinforces a strong warning to Jamaicans not to be too gullible about fake news carried on its platforms and supports legislative protection for traditional media.

The reinforcement came from Desmond Allen, founding editor of the Jamaica Observer, who was speaking on the topic 'Traditional Media in a Social Media Environment' Social Media on Saturday, the final day of the three-day Global Adventist Internet Network Conference (GAiN) at the Iberostar Hotel in Montego Bay, St James.

“Social media too often represent an information jungle, which often makes it difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction,” Allen complained.

“Because anybody can grab a phone at any time or anywhere and become an instant community journalist; we are bombarded with blood and filth and the trash of daily human existence without any attempt to edit or censure,” said the veteran journalist.

This poses even greater challenge for media practitioners, who, when faced with certain information being passed off as 'news' on social media, must insist on proper investigative journalism to unearth the credibility of the story.

Allen was among four media personalities receiving GaiN awards for distinguished service to journalism, the other three being the Gleaner's Oliver Clarke, CVM's Kerlyn Brown and TVJ's Andrea Chisholm.

Batting for traditional media, Allen said: “Traditional media is constrained to take each news item or allegation through a cleaning process — checking all the facts, verifying the source, getting the other sides and ensuring the balance, fair play and the other elements of professional journalism — before the story is published or aired.”

Allen who is currently executive editor — special assignment of the Observer, reminded young journalists of the maxim: “When in doubt, check it out; still in doubt? Leave it out,” noting that this is much too often the exception on social media sites.

But he stressed that social media was not all bad and he was grateful that social media exposes certain hardcore realities such as “the mothers who were mercilessly beating their young daughters”, although the news did not become credible until traditional media had cleaned it up, allowing the authorities the confidence to act on it.

Allen noted that the Broadcasting Commission (BCJ) of Jamaica had expressed outrage at the loss of traditional media gatekeepers and the consequent rise in fake news, especially from unregulated online entities

He said that the commission wanted its oversight expanded to halt the use of media for the proliferation of hate speech, unethical advertising, disinformation, scamming, and terrorist recruitment.

“It is for this reason that I join with the BCJ in its call for the Government of Jamaica to give it more powers of sanction in revamp of legislation governing the local digital media landscape.”

He quoted the commission as saying: “We just finished writing proposals to Government about how we will manage the digital switchover and we hope that will do something to give traditional media companies a chance to surge back into the marketplace. We are trying to level the playing field again.”

Allen urged Jamaicans to check the sources of information from social media and to protect the traditional media “until we reach that point where we can rely on the credibility of social media”.

“To consumers, continue to buy your newspapers; listen to your local radio stations and watch your local television broadcast. To the advertisers, continue to support your traditional media. Most of all, he tells the public, protect yourselves by checking your sources of information. Don't be too gullible.”

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