The fightback begins now. Olly Murs, please step aside. It’s time to tackle the whole “fake news” phenomenon head on. And we’ve set out to do just that through Hotspots.
It won’t always be pretty. You’ll see us sweating. You’ll see us panting. You’ll hear our exhaustion and you’ll witness our fear. But the aim is to show you – warts and all – the lengths we go to, the teams involved in gathering that evidence and the difficulties we encounter in making sure you get an accurate a picture as is physically possible about what is happening on the ground from where we’re reporting from.
So you’ll see how cameraman Martin Smith tackles the physical challenges of filming the battle against Islamic extremists in Raqqa whilst also trying to stay alive. He loses 90% of his hearing in one ear as a result of some of the explosions he is filming.
Fellow cameraman Pete Milnes explains how he captured the desperation and despair of the hundreds of thousands of fleeing Rohingya refugees – and how he handled that emotionally.
Camerawoman Jenni Wetters admits she sobbed behind the camera whilst filming a heartbreaking story about sex trafficking.
Reporter Ashish Joshi admits he initially got it wrong when he set out to cover the Rohingya crisis. And Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay presents the whole first episode from the ruins of Raqqa, a few hours after the Islamic extremists have been driven out.
The series is an attempt to give you a chance to peek behind the headlines; beyond the news and glimpse inside the really very unglamorous world of eyewitness reporting while also being taken to some of the most inhospitable places on earth.
Sky’s Head of International News Dan Williams said: “I’m immensely proud and humbled at the incredible work of our foreign teams.
“It’s easy to sit there as head of the department and ask – can we get there? Can we talk to that person? Wouldn’t it be good if we could show that! But it takes incredible commitment and passion to actually deliver what they deliver.”
The favourite catchphrase of the most famous man in the world has taken a hold and spread like a virulent virus. Donald Trump’s habit of trashing bona fide journalists is an attack on free media the like of which the world would never tolerate from a South American dictator or East European despot.
It’s eating away at the very essence of journalism so the public is utterly confused about who to trust and where to go for accurate information about events.
It’s so insidious that even when cameraman Garwen McLuckie and I were reporting from the battle of Mosul earlier this year with artillery fire, mortars and suicide bombs going off all around us, I was being tweeted messages insinuating that it was all “fake news” and somehow I had manufactured the fighting and several thousand actors to pose as soldiers for my own unexplained reasons.
This despite us showing convoys of Iraqi soldiers, bombed out and barricaded homes, and hundreds of refugees fleeing the fighting waving white flags.
How has it got to this stage? How is it that men and women who’ve spent their whole lives honing their skills; learning their trade and building up experience all across the world, are now unfavourably contrasted with a citizen journalist who may have a fairly clear partisan agenda with zero expertise?
Citizen journalists have their role. They may be the ONLY witness on the ground so their pictures may be valuable evidence. But they also have their place. Citizen journalist is a catchy moniker but they are not journalists. They are citizens with mobile phones and cannot and should not be compared with trained journalists bound by strict regulations and a code of conduct.
Don’t get me wrong. Journalists make mistakes. But the idea that they are routinely going out of their way to manufacture “news”; that entire organisations are regularly dreaming up ways of misrepresenting the truth or only showing one angle is just utter b******t.
Every journalist I know prides themselves on just the opposite. They entered journalism not to make money, nor to become famous but to make a difference; to investigate; to uncover; to hold to account and to ask the difficult questions and show the often uncomfortable truth whatever the consequences.
That’s not to say there aren’t mistakes made. It would be foolish and dare I say it, fake, to try to argue otherwise. But there’s a world of difference between making an honest error – and manufacturing news, opinions or “facts” to fit your own agenda as has been done through websites now being endorsed by influential politicians like the US President himself.
Journalists the world over know their industry is under severe attack. Social media has endangered this even more because of the instantaneous nature of tweeting which has threatened the very foundations of professional reporting and simply getting it right.
Twitter can be a particularly cruel and unforgiving medium when you do get it wrong. As Olly Murs is finding out, it is a particularly nasty and lonely place to be.
Hotspots is an honest attempt at taking you behind the news and showing you the difference between whats really real and whats really fake.
:: The first episode of Hotspots is due to air on Sky Atlantic on Monday 11 December at 9pm, and on Sky News on Tuesday 12 December at 9pm.