The best way to fight fake news? NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro calls it ‘radical transparency’
Host of NPR’s 'Weekend Edition Sunday' to deliver opening keynote address for Global Solutions Forum in Vail
- What: Lulu Garcia-Navarro: Integrity of Journalism Leads To Integrity of Action
- When: Thursday, 8:45-9:30 a.m.
- Where: Colorado Ballroom, Vail Marriott
- Tickets: The Global Solutions Forum will be held Oct. 23-25 in Vail. Tickets to the 2019 Global Solutions Forum are on sale now. For tickets and more information including a full list of speakers and schedule visit: https://shouldertoshoulder.com/2019gsf/
In the age of disinformation, Lulu Garcia-Navarro is adamant that you can’t be a passive media consumer.
“You can no longer let your Facebook feed and your Twitter feed scroll by and you just passively accept that that is the truth,” said the host of NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday,” who will give the opening keynote address on Thursday at the three-day Global Solutions Forum in Vail. “You have to be an active participant at this point in time in really verifying where your information is coming from. And also you need to try to think about why someone is trying to push certain buttons and trying to rile you up.”
Garcia-Navarro’s keynote in the Colorado Ballroom of the Vail Marriott will address the integral role of a free and reliable press as a fundamental foundation for ethical leaders. Before joining “Weekend Edition Sunday,” Garcia-Navarro was an NPR correspondent based in Brazil, Israel, Mexico, and Iraq and was one of the first reporters to enter Libya after the 2011 Arab Spring uprising began. For her courageous reporting in Libya, she was awarded numerous awards, including a George Foster Peabody Award, a Lowell Thomas Award from the Overseas Press Club, an Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Alliance for Women and the Media’s Gracie Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement.
While she often misses being a far-flung foreign correspondent, Garcia-Navarro said that her mind is freer in her current NPR role where she can bring the rest of the world to her in the studio.
“Before I would be covering a particular beat, specifically conflicts for a long time, and that’s kind of a one-note journalism,” she said during a recent phone interview. “It’s so vital to bear witness, but I get so much more range now. I get to have conversations with all sorts of types of people about different things, and whomever I want to talk to, I can talk to, and that’s an incredible gift, and it’s not bound by geographic concerns, it’s not bound by a situation, it’s just bound by the imagination of me and my colleagues and who we’re going to talk to on any given day.”
And who might that be? Women, for one, and people of color — two groups whose voices, Garcia-Navarro said, have been underrepresented in the mainstream media for too long.
“I think this is existential for journalism, and I don’t think it’s just me,” she said. “It is born out of the fact that, obviously, my name is Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, and I’m Hispanic, I’m Latina, and of course that comes with a whole bunch of different perceptions. But beyond that, it’s just good journalism at this point. Journalism is based on the idea that we need to speak to as many people as possible. We need to reflect the lives of the people that we’re covering. We amplify those stories. For too long the media has been in this very white, rarified world in which it does not necessarily reflect the changing demographics of this country.”
Garcia-Navarro pointed out that it’s one thing to promote diversity and equality — but it’s another thing to actually do the work to live up to those lofty ideals. That’s why she said she tracks how many women and people of color she brings on the air.
“The loss of faith in journalism that people don’t trust the media anymore, part of that is being whipped up for political reasons but part of that is an actual disconnect between what we’re doing and the communities that we’re serving, and people don’t see themselves reflected honestly in the kinds of stories that we’re doing often, and particularly that’s true for communities of color that have been underserved by the mainstream media,” she said. “I think it’s a real opportunity at this point in time to try and reach out and try to do stories that not only will allow communities of color to feel like their stories are being told but also for other types of communities to listen to those stories and understand this country better. And I think you’re doing a service.”
As for the other part of that equation, Garcia-Navarro said there is no question that the sustained, political attacks to discredit the media coming from the White House and other factions have contributed to the current media crisis, where not a week goes by without another community newspaper printing its last edition or slashing its reporting staff.
But she said large social media companies like Facebook and Twitter also share the blame, and that they should be regulated like media companies, not as agnostic platforms.
“We’re in an age where bad actors, outside of our political system, are using the tools of dissemination, through social media and elsewhere, and bombarding the public,” she said. “And I have to say, no particular political stripe has the monopoly on this. The anti-vaxxer thing is something that is predominantly coming from the left. We’re in an age where there is a lot of real disinformation coming at us from all sides and the average consumer is bombarded and it’s very difficult for them to understand the difference between what a legitimate news organization like NPR is, or one that is a fly-by-night, pop-up from a website that nobody’s ever heard of.”
She said the average media consumer doesn’t grasp the layers of fact-checking that go into a story at a fact-based media outlet, whether that’s The New York Times or your local community paper. That’s why Garcia-Navarro said she often talks about radical transparency as the solution to fighting the fake news narrative.
“It’s really trying to let the listener, in our case, the viewer, the reader, understand the process by which we make certain decisions,” she said. “And take them into that and have them be part of that discussion.”
While there’s plenty to be pessimistic about when it comes to the state of the media, Garcia-Navarro said she is encouraged when she does speaking engagements like the Global Solutions Forum where she encounters the next generation of journalists.
“You see studies that when local papers in communities die, all sorts of things go up,” she said. “The costs of municipal work, voter engagement is less. Newspapers have and the media, in general, have really important roles in communities, and so it’s a really important time for the next generation to feel engaged in these issues. And I think we’re seeing that because, all of the sudden, in this particular period, when the media is under attack, not only financially but also in the political sphere and there’s a great loss of faith in what we do, just by the general public, I think that has actually engaged young people that I’ve talked to very much. And they’re now interested in the issues of the media and a free press.”