Hoaxers who fool online readers by packaging fabrications as serious news pose “the most profound and pernicious threat to our profession and democracy,” NBC News’ Tom Brokaw said today at a gathering of the media elite in New York where he won an award for his lifetime of work in journalism.
Distributors of so-called “fake news” are “extraordinarily sophisticated” and peddle “ignorance and conspiracy,” he added after winning the Fred Dressler Leadership Award from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
“That’s what we’re dealing with on a daily basis, and it is not getting enough attention.”
Brokaw urged journalists to fight back by launching more investigations to “tell us what we should know” — especially with stories that can’t just be reported from the newsroom.
“We lost our way,” he says. “We’re not spending enough time out there” covering people outside the halls of power.
His remarks followed a tribute video that included many of his NBC colleagues over the years as well as director Steven Spielberg, Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav, and The New Yorker‘s Ken Auletta.
Browkaw’s message dovetailed with comments from New York Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr., whose news organization won the school’s I-3 award, which stands for impact, innovation and influence.
He urged reporters to “hold true to our core principles” at a time when “fewer journalists have the time or resources necessary to do impactful stories.”
The Newhouse School also handed out its annual Mirror Awards.
New York Magazine‘s Gabriel Sherman won the “John M. Higgins Award for Best In-Depth/Enterprise Reporting” for his work covering sexual harassment charges that led to the ouster of the late Fox News chief Roger Ailes.
Columbia Journalism Review‘s Sarah Esther Maslin won “Best Profile” for a feature about El Salvador’s hard-hitting news site El Faro.
The Verge’s Soraya Chemaly and Catherine Buni won “Best Single Article/Story” for a piece about the ways websites including YouTube and Facebook moderate speech.
The Nation‘s Eric Alterman won “Best Commentary” for a critique of “false equivalence.” He challenged the New York Times and other major news organizations that reported on the “Republicans’ war on reality” and tried to appear balanced by suggesting that Democrats were equally guilty of spreading inaccuracies and violating political norms.