A Trustworthy Voice
As this edition of Engineering & Mining Journal (E&MJ) was going press, the top lawyers from Google, Facebook and Twitter had testified before a U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. They were trying to explain how internet trolls had used their social media platforms to spread misinformation in the months leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The spectacle in a lot of ways resembled the antitrust movement that took place 100 years ago and led to the formation of the Federal Trade Commission. The difference this time is that it’s not commodities, such as oil and steel, but information.
Social media has become a time suck that many people can no longer ignore. In addition to answering an inbox full of email, many people also commit a significant amount of time to social media. To be a part of Facebook, users must join a community and divulge a certain amount of personal information. For all intents and purposes, it’s a closed community. Google launched with a portal strategy to steer people toward “content,” but more recently its methodology has changed as it tries to retain users on Google.com. With 140-character bursts, Twitter remains the new frontier. And, the world has now learned that hundreds of false Twitter accounts disseminated “fake news,” which was spread unknowingly by followers. This has had a profound impact on the media, journalistic standards and public relations.
Today, politicians, or anyone for that matter, can talk directly to constituents. This can be good and bad. It essentially eliminates the media as a middleman to convey that message. Journalists were expected to use integrity to filter that message and report both sides of the story fairly. Unfortunately, many media outlets have elected to take sides. This uniformed collective, which has become accustomed to reporting without verification, will report anything that comes across the transom that fits its predetermined narrative, including overblown reports on environmental impact and socioeconomic issues from questionable sources. Sadly, without rules, it’s only going to get worse, and establishing rules in this arena will be difficult.
People gravitate toward a voice they think they can trust. By the time the news reports hit the internet, the stories usually have a detectable bias, if not a mocking nature. This has been a noticeable trend in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Australia. One outlet leans toward a conservative view while another is produced by a liberal mindset. When viewers look at content today, they should be skeptical, but many are not. As engineers, we were trained to think critically, they were not. An audience with a disposition will not normally trust the opposing view and often decide to listen to their favorites. Tragically, there are few sources of trusted information today.
All of this has worked in favor of trade journals, such as E&MJ. Trade journals have become the antidote for fake news. The articles that E&MJ publishes, or the “content” as its often referred, have been verified. When a vendor reports record production from a piece of its equipment, E&MJ calls the mine to verify that information. When a multinational miner and the government of a developing country get into a dust up, E&MJ reports both sides of the story (journalistic standards). E&MJ has readers, not viewers. Professionals in the mining and mineral processing sector expect the best. They can’t rely solely on sound bites or a Tweet with a link. E&MJ publishes articles they can sink their teeth into and save for future reference. With the print edition, Google doesn’t know what you’re reading. Enjoy this edition.
Steve Fiscor, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, E&MJ