[Estimated reading time 1 minute, 37 seconds]

Pew Research Center concluded in their annual report on American online use that 62 percent of respondents said 2016 that they got their news from Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.[1]

Hence, the core value is not the printing press it’s the content. The journalist produces that value. Jason Blair and Janet Cooke and Claas Relotius[2] showed what happens when that trust disappears.

One can easily watermark digital content by producing a hash – a unique figure that represents the results of an irreversible mathematical computation.

En bild som visar skärmbildBeskrivning genererad med mycket hög exakthet“fd70ade61e400c9e570fd1f9f2e4ff7f” is the hash of the text above[3]

The most spread encryption program, PGP, also has a function where it uses encryption to sign a piece of information. Thus, a trusted key signing a piece of text becomes as valid, or better, then a physically signed contract. At least a more secure method. Another issue is what technology a court would prefer.

Academia has strict rules of footnoting and peer review to verify the origins of knowledge and counter falsifications.

Hence, we do no longer believe that cold fusion[4] will solve our energy problems since that scientific bombshell from 1989 never could be re-created by others based on the published paper.

Urkund.com is a service that compares students output to what can be found on the internet, other student papers and academia. The result is presented to the professor for judgement for plagiarism.

En bild som visar skärmbild, textBeskrivning genererad med mycket hög exakthet

Illustration from Urkund.com

Shazam, the music identification service uses small digital slices of popular music – hashes – to identify music that you play to it. “All” songs are sliced up into small pieces and made into hashes. What you play to Shazam is sliced up instantaneously, hashed and compared to the database of recorded hashes. If there is a match Shazam answers with the songs name.

So, there are many solutions out there for watermarking, and increasingly they become digitized.

But so far, these technical solutions have not been implemented in a usable way for the public. And as Norddeutsche Rundfunk and partners showed in 2018[5] established systems like peer review can be broken.[6]

So far, journalism lacks that. Internal Line by line processes are implemented in some newsroom, but not all, and seldom documented. And, as Relotius[7] shows, they fail in the newsrooms with the best intentions like Der Spiegel.

That’s not good enough, it´s ruining journalisms core value.


//Updated 20190426//

  1. In the summer of 2016 the, which continuously gauges the net habits of the American people, found that social media had seriously started to challenge TV, radio and newspapers as a source of news. 62 per cent of respondents said that they got their news from Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Naturally it put Facebook in the line of fire. A business that had always stressed it was a tech company and not a news source had turned into one of the prime avenues of news in America. /JA

  2. Claas Relotius https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/19/top-der-spiegel-journalist-resigns-over-fake-interviews accessed 2019-04-12

  3. http://www.unit-conversion.info/texttools/md5/

  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_fusion

  5. Clippings\Predatory publishers_ the journals that churn out fake science _ Technology _ The Guardian Fri 10 Aug 2018 12.55 EDT accessed 20190403.pdf

  6. “ Predatory publishers: the journals that churn out fake science German broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk, reveals the open-access publishers who accept any article submitted for a fee

  7. Claas Relotius https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/19/top-der-spiegel-journalist-resigns-over-fake-interviews accessed 2019-04-12