Modern journalism, between speed and accuracy
Speed and accuracy are fundamentals to modern journalism. With all the challenges faced by media, the existence of social media, and the massive spread of hoaxes, can speed and verification go hand in hand?
In an age where people are free to easily and quickly access a myriad of information, the media is required to match this by bringing forth the latest information quickly and accurately.
Not to mention, with the internet spreading to various corners of the regions in Indonesia, access to information is increasing, which, if not stopped, may overwhelm and drown all of us.
"There is a phrase ‘speed kills you’, which means we need to be prudent when being speedy. Without it, the speed will turn around and kill us,” said the Head of Newsgathering CNN Indonesia TV, Revolusi Riza.
"There are cases when our fellow journalists want fast news, but it turns out to be inaccurate."
Revolusi, who is also the Secretary of the Independent Journalist Alliance (AJI), gives an example regarding the Thamrin bombing back in 2016, where at the time, information was circulating on follow-up bombing attacks and terrorist making their rounds in the Semanggi area.
"So back then there were issues going around in Whatsapp groups and social media regarding several subsequent bomb attacks. Also, terrorist groups were driving around the city using white SUVs while carrying firearms,” continued Revolusi.
"There were a number of media publishing the news without verification. Some TV stations were even publishing it in the form of a running text. The media failed to conduct an adequate verification process due to being in a hurry."
Social media, friend or foe?
It is undeniable that being the fastest has its merit for the media. It is no surprise that a lot of Indonesian media use words like ‘fast,’ ‘quickest,’ or ‘latest’ as their tagline.
However, the problem becomes more complicated since the dissemination of information is even easier with social media, which enables the general public to share information whose truth has yet to be confirmed.
Ramadhian Fadillah, the Editor-in-Chief of Merdeka, com, acknowledges this challenge. He thinks the wild spread of information becomes homework for people working in the media industry.
"The media today is different than a few years ago. Now, WhatsApp posts can spread faster than the mainstream media. Not to mention, how many journalists do we have? It is difficult for them to cover all of Indonesia,” said Ramadhian.
"Our competitors in WhatsApp, Facebook, and so forth can take pictures and spread them without verification. Meanwhile, it takes time for our reporters to go to the news scene and to write the news. We will definitely lose in a battle of speed regarding this information."
Revolusi Riza also highlights the ‘competition’ between mainstream media and social media. The thing is, people can easily publish content, videos, and news, which can be misleading for the public and the mainstream media itself if they have no desire or make effort to filter them.
“Social media can become ammunition, but can also trick us. A good media uses social media for its journalistic interests. Social media can be a method for publication, building public relations, can serve as a journalistic platform, and collecting information. However, in collecting this information, there are also other additional steps, such as verification, getting permission, and rights and clearance,” explained Revolusi.
“Now, on the field, many media often forget the verification, permission, and rights aspects.”
Speed and accuracy
With all the challenges, the speed game with social media, and the massive spread of hoaxes nowadays, can speed and accuracy go hand in hand?
"Yes, they can," firmly said Vice Managing Editor of Koran SINDO, Armydian Kurniawan. "We abide by specific principles when working in the media. When we apply basic journalism principles into the news production process, speed and accuracy can go hand in hand."
Similar to Armydian, Revolusi Riza also feels that media in Indonesia are actually able to put speed and verification together.
"We can be fast, as long as we have sufficient verification tools and capacity. This is quite normal in many places (media), but in principle, we still need to be prudent,” said Riza.
“The news business (media) is all about credibility. We must make no mistakes. Yes, mistakes are inevitable, but we try to avoid them as much as we can, especially regarding information due to (skipped) verification procedures.”
The Editor in Chief of Merdeka.com also mentions the principle of prudence. He feels that the media people must remain faithful to the notion that the media is an accurate source of information.
"Speed is important, but accuracy is more important,” said Ramadhian. "Ideally, things should be fast and accurate. I think everyone wants that. But if we have to choose between speed and accuracy, we choose accuracy."