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The Problem with Objectivity in Journalism

The final keynote speaker at Future of Journalism 2017 is Linda Steiner, who begins by introducing us to feminist standpoint epistemology: bodies of knowledge are socially situated and embodied, and this both limits and enables what one can know.

From this perspective, it is clear that there is a thin procedural view of objectivity at the basis of journalism – and this is a problem. This is simultaneously also a reason that Donald Trump and other critics of the mainstream media are able to attack the press as 'fake news' when it does not live up to a narrow standard of objectivity, and a reason that journalists themselves will choose to cover more straightforward stories rather than topics that would challenge their ability to remain objective.

Does Using Social Media for News Change Attitudes to the EU?

The final speaker in this Future of Journalism 2017 session is An Nguyen, who begins by focussing on the role of major tech companies in influencing information exposure for their users, which has given rise to concepts like 'echo chambers' and 'filter bubbles'. Various studies have now started to explore the presence of such patterns, building on a variety of data and focussing on a range of contexts, communities, and cases – with highly variable outcomes.

Online News Exposure in Spain

The third presenter in this Future of Journalism 2017 session is Jaume Suau, focussing on agenda-setting in the digital public sphere and exploring especially the role of Spanish citizens as online participants. Spanish users are highly active in engaging with political and social contexts, and this is focussed largely on commenting and sharing news (especially on Facebook and WhatsApp) rather than producing content. News media have failed to harness these energies fully so far.

Analysing Filter Bubbles in the Facebook Newsfeed

The next presenter at Future of Journalism 2017 is Anja Bechmann, who shifts our focus to news engagement within the private and semi-private spaces of Facebook. Here, the Facebook newsfeed serves at least in part also as a news platform, where news stories are shared and curated in a collaborative fashion. News, here, is variously a journalistically, user-, and algorithmically defined concept.

The Impact of Facebook Page Editors on the Visibility of News Stories

The next Future of Journalism 2017 session starts with a paper by Kasper Welbers that explores the gatekeeping role of newspapers' social media editors (who manage their Facebook pages), in part by gathering engagement data for the posts on these pages through the Facebook API. Data gathering here is non-trivial, however, as it requires the regular re-gathering of engagement information over longer periods of time in order to establish engagement time-series.

Journalism as an Inferential Community

The final paper in this Future of Journalism 2017 session is by Henrik Bødker and Scott Eldridge, which begins by positioning journalism as an inferential community. Journalism often operates in a context where there is an absence of facts, but in writing about matters of societal significance rumours and other unsubstantiated information cannot be ignored and excluded. Instead, inferences – statements about the unknown, based on the known – need to be made.

A Brief History of Rumours in the News

The next speaker at Future of Journalism 2017 is Scott Eldridge, whose interest is in the presence of 'fake news' in its various guises in political campaign coverage. This includes news, rumour, and speculative fact, and indeed attempts to address political rumour go back at least to the Roman Empire.

The 'Fake News' Debate in Norway

The next speaker at Future of Journalism 2017 is Bente Kalsnes, whose aim is to develop a more systematic approach to 'fake news' in the Norwegian context. Bente has some personal experience with this: her photo and name appeared in a Norwegian newspaper as a future Member of Parliament, even though she is not actually a candidate in the upcoming election.

Forms of 'Fake News' in U.K. Media

The next Future of Journalism 2017 session starts with Julian Petley, who begins by noting the problems with the term 'fake news'. Some such news is deliberately made up as clickbait; some is overt or covert political propaganda; some is not made up but simply seriously biased or inaccurate; and some is deliberately made up for the purposes of media critique or satire.

Categorising News Aggregator Services

The final speaker in this Future of Journalism 2017 session is Concha Edo, whose focus is on the impact of news aggregators (and especially those beyond the major services). Such services now play a crucial role in channelling audience attention to news sources; research here has largely focussed on the impact of the major services on news industry business models.

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