Ilse Openneer, Deputy Editor in Chief at RTL Nieuws, RTL Nederland’s news channel, discusses the evolution of journalism work and the battle against fake news and disinformation.
How has journalistic work evolved?
Trust in journalism is very high and stable in the Netherlands, according to a report by the Reuters Institute for the study of journalism. The principles and standards have not really changed overtime. You check and cross-check information. What has changed is the speed of information. Within minutes or seconds, you must decide what to publish and in what format. That has had a big impact on journalists.
How would you describe the situation in the Netherlands compared with other regions?
Across the entire world there is increasing aggression and violence against journalists. In the past, it was mostly verbal. Social media has paved the way for people to communicate a wide range of subjective and sometimes extreme opinions. In the Netherlands almost everyone is active online. The aggression online has moved into real life, and in some cases has led to physical violence. For some public protests we must protect our journalists against physical violence. To do so, we hire professional security guards. These are exceptions, fortunately, but it is a sad development. Similar trends are taking place in other European countries. In other regions the freedom of the press is very seriously endangered by political decisions.
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How do you detect false news?
At RTL News our editors use digital tools to detect fake footage and stories online. And we have our common sense. When we read a story that appears false, we check our own sources.
Do you worry that fake news poses as RTL content?
‘Fake news’ – a very unfortunate name – is a threat to journalism and democracy. However we are able to address it when it occurs by actively looking for articles which are published as RTL News stories, but in reality are not.
In the fight against disinformation and misinformation, how do you define the role of journalism?
Journalism’s core function is to inform the public of the facts and put them in the correct context.
What are the core values of RTL Nieuws?
To inform in the best way possible, and as neutral as possible. We want to be transparent in how we work and about the source of our information and facts.
How is fake news handled by RTL Nederland?
There is a lot of awareness at RTL Nederland about the issue of fake news. The news department takes its own measures. We stress the importance of journalistic accountability and transparency, link to documents in articles and provide more footage if possible.