By Trace Ulland

“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.”

I heard these words at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. last month. Spoken in 1963 by Edward R. Murrow, they seem especially relevant in our current environment where the term “fake news” is used daily to reference news stories that aren’t agreeable to someone.

As I wandered the halls of the Newseum, there was a photo wall honoring the journalists who died doing their jobs. I’m certain they did not die reporting fake news. There is a piece of the Berlin wall where you can clearly see which side of the wall celebrated free speech and which side did not. There are displays of reporters who went to jail to protect the identity of sources who helped tell important stories.

It’s hard to deny facts when you see them with your own eyes. But we can’t be everywhere, which is why we have to trust journalists to tell us what we cannot see. Yet, there are still some who believe fixing a “leak” is more important than ensuring the truth is told.

While the political ramifications of “fake news” are disturbing enough, this concept also has me wondering what impact it has on the communications profession.

  • Do our employees believe what our organizations say (assuming we ever had credibility with the employees)?
  • Do our customers put more stock in what we say or in what others say about us, however “true” or “fake” appears?
  • If the “media” isn’t trusted, how do we use the media to tell our story?
  • What can we do to prevent ourselves from falling victim to fake news?

This is a weighty topic for professional communicators and one that will be tackled during the opening keynote at the Convergence Summit on March 24, The Emergence of Fake News and the Impact on Media Relations, Business, Consumers and Journalism. Star Tribune reporter John Rash, former TV news anchor and current new media entrepreneur Rick Kupchella, and Padilla CRT senior director Tracy Carlson will form the panel for this discussion, moderated by Christopher Terry, assistant professor of media law and ethics at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota.

This panel is just one of the reasons I’m excited about the Convergence Summit. There are many other sessions equally compelling: employee engagement, social media and crisis, to name just a few. Check out the agenda at iabcmnsummit.com. Grab a couple of colleagues and join me and other business communicators for a day of discussion, inspiration and learning.

*Travel tip: If you haven’t heard of or been to the Newseum, I highly recommend it. It has very powerful exhibits and, for a communicator who is even remotely interested in history or news media, there are so many treasures to be found.

Trace Ulland is a past-president for IABC Minnesota and a member of the 2016 Convergence Summit planning committee.

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