It’s high noon in the digital age and redefining the role and modus operandi of journalists is not new. But what happened in the US last month is a screaming reminder that today’s journalists cannot afford to ignore social media data.
Awash with indicators of Donald Trump’s impending triumph, social media proved a more reliable barometer of the electorate than traditional journalism. Facebook was a bellwether of his ascendancy. The few pollsters who got it right used social media analytics.
The challenge for journalists everywhere is to harness the positive force of digital media – the two-way conversation, the democracy of information dissemination and access – while maintaining rigour in accuracy, context and balance. Content, unregulated by professional principles, is easily abused. The industrial production of fake news stories that affected voter decisions during the US campaign is testament to that abuse. Truth Tracker is a commitment to keeping the golden thread of truth in content. Truth needs facts. Truth needs accurate data. It needs context and balance. Truth Tracker seeks to use the gifts of social media – the insights into ordinary people’s attitudes – while staying vigilant to the information abuse it licences.
Five of the stories in this month’s issue are dedicated to tracking promises made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N and Imran Khan’s Tehreek-i-Insaf party. Trump’s victory may have caused some observers to suggest that policy details are not important to voters. Truth Tracker demonstrates that is not the case in Pakistan, and it will keep showing politicians and readers alike that truth, and policy detail, do matter.