Date: 17 March 2016
Location: 6B Cluny Park

“Fake news” reportedly played a role in the recent United States election, and US President Donald Trump has accused mainstream media of spreading “fake news”. They in turn accuse him of half truths and “alternative facts”. Are we now living in a post truth age, and if so what challenges and responsibilities do the media have in such an age and what role should they play?

We were reminded that “fake news” was not necessarily a recent phenomena and there have been similar incidents of fake news more than 100 years ago. However, the advent of the digital revolution meant that today there are now many more alternative sources of information/misinformation available digitally, not least contributed to by the rise of citizen journalism and bloggers. Social media sites also served as digital filters and echo-chambers as its participants recirculated already filtered news within the group.

Under the circumstances, the idea that truth and news had to be curated by a smaller group of people such as journalists was now under threat, as subscription based internet versions of print media have further demonstrated that these are not economically viable, with consumers so used to free information on the internet.

While media and newspapers continue to struggle to find the right business models to stay viable, a comforting thought was that with the huge variety of unfiltered information, misinformation and outright lies on the internet, readers may eventually gravitate back to trusted sources of curated news and media in the search for truth.

About the speaker: 

Mr Han Fook Kwang is Editor-at-Large at The Straits Times, and a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University. He was in the Administrative Service of the Singapore Government before joining The Straits Times in 1989. He was Editor of the paper from 2002 to 2012, when he was appointed Managing Editor, and later Editor-at-Large. He was founding chairman of The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which provides financial assistance to needy students. Mr Han graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in mechanical engineering under a Colombo Plan scholarship, and holds a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University. He has co-authored several books on Singapore’s founding Prime Minister: Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas, Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going, and One Man’s View of the World.

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