Dubai: It is no secret that most global news agencies are suffering as big technology has changed the news sourcing game and empowered citizen journalism.
However, the head of one of the world’s most prominent news agencies believes “news agencies are here to stay”.
Addressing the opening session of the 18th edition of the Arab Media Forum that kicked off on Wednesday under the theme ‘Arab Media: From Now to the Future’, Fabrice Fries, Chairman and CEO of Agence France-Press (AFP), said agencies must admit times have changed, with photo and video being the future of journalism.
“With news advancements, we have lost our privilege of exclusivity and ubiquity, but we retain reliability. Our mission is to fight against fake news and invest in quality journalism,” said Fries.
In an ecosystem of misinformation, Fries referred to the verification of information as a “news agency’s DNA”.
Changing their role from gatekeeping to fact-checking, agencies must continue to send “boots to the ground” in order to avoid losing credibility, especially during breaking news and large events.
“We can play a bigger role in fact-checking … the basis of verification of information is journalism on the ground,” he said.
Investing in quality journalists and training talent on specific fact-checking softwares is key to surviving changes in the industry, he added.
While maintaining a global news agency is costly, alternative revenue streams as a means to continue supporting the press division must be explored, he said, noting that the partnership between AFP and Facebook that aims to curb the spread of fake news is one such example.
AFP, which has been certified through the Poynter Institute’s non-partisan International Fact Checking Network, claims it identifies false news articles, photos and videos on Facebook’s platform. Such posts are rated ‘false news’ and users who have posted or ‘liked’ the post are informed through a notification, with an option referring them to the correct facts on the AFP website.
All debunked news eventually loses visibility, significantly reducing its distribution, Fries said.
“Facebook plays no editorial role, we are the verifiers and fact-checkers,” confirmed Fires.
He also discussed the importance of ‘image’ in the news industry. “AFP is arguably the number one photo news agency … and we are investing massively in video and photo journalism,” he said
The new EU Copyright Law approved on Tuesday, is a “victory” for news agencies, he said, adding that the new rules mean that technology giants such as Google, Facebook and YouTube will have to compensate publishers, artists and musicians for their content on their sites.