“CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Scott Pelley addressed the ongoing issue of fake news being spread on social media, saying “quality journalism is not a given” and it must be “fought for and refreshed” by every generation of Americans.
“There are threats, now, to the quality of our information, to the quality of our journalism. Threats that must be reckoned with,” Pelley said in a powerful speech during his Walter Cronkite Award acceptance speech at Arizona State University on Monday afternoon.
“Consider this: Never in human history has more information been available to more people. That’s a wonderful thing. But it is also true that never in human history has more bad information been available,” Pelley said before explaining that the new dividing line is the “difference between journalism and junk.”
He continued: “The quickest, most direct way to ruin a democracy is to poison the information.”
Pelley said there are three threats to journalism: Aggregators, which report other outlets’ reporting without verification, purveyors of bias that “lull viewers into a partisan coma,” and outlets that post “outright lies” without regard for the values of journalism.
The “CBS Evening News” anchor pointed to a bogus story about the Pope endorsing Donald Trump as an example of how fake news can impact the real word.
“A lot of people were clicking on that story,” Pelley said before ripping Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for saying that determining the truth is “complicated.”
“It’s called journalism,” Pelley said. “The stakes are enormously high.”
Pelley, who missed Donald Trump’s media summit to attend the event, told assembled journalism students that Cronkite’s legacy remains preserved at his network.
“Walter is alive and well at CBS News. And we live his values and his principles every day,” Pelley said.
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