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LeGeyt: Broadcasters Play Critical Role in Age of Misinformation

Remarking on the current political and social climate, NAB's leader said "the stakes have never been higher"

During the Media Institute’s “Free Speech America” Gala on Thursday, NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt gave a speech emphasizing the importance of a free press, and the role broadcasters play in serving the public.

The event corresponded with Free Speech Week — an annual celebration of America’s constitutional guarantees of free speech and freedom of the press — which runs Oct. 16–22.

During his opening remarks, LeGeyt noted that free speech and freedom of press are “the bedrock principles of our democracy.”

However, he also noted that the credibility of fact-based journalism is under daily attack, and that our society is under siege “by the relentless tide of misinformation online.” He said this rise of misinformation has created a “double-edged sword,” where reporting the truth can often be perceived as taking a side or having a bias.

“We must stand together, because – put simply – the challenges have never been greater while the stakes have never been higher.”

He said nearly 70 percent of Americans report coming across fake news on social media. And according to the Pew Research Center, an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that “false information online” is a major threat to our democracy.

“Yet this is where our young people consume their news,” he said. “And it is where our most marginalized communities – from rural America to immigrants and communities of color – are disproportionately impacted.”

“And this problem is only worsening.”

LeGeyt said the rise of cheap and easy-to-use AI tools are creating the conditions for a perfect “misinformation storm.” Additionally, he said the notion that anyone can be a journalist by sharing news-related content via social media is severely misguided.

“Years into tech’s experiment to hold-up crowd-sourced social media content as a more ‘democratized’ form of news gathering, it is safe to say that it can never replace what journalists do, which is to provide the facts that calm the storms.”

“If we aren’t working every day to push back on these challenges, no one is.”

During his remarks, LeGeyt also took the time to honor what he called “true champions of our First Amendment rights” — author and journalist Bob Woodward and former FCC Chairman Michael Powell.

LeGeyt said, over five decades, Woodward’s reporting have given readers a front row seat to the inner workings behind every major political event of our time.

“Bob’s unwavering commitment to truth and accountability has not only shaped the course of history but inspired generations of journalists and writers. His remarkable work not only unveiled the dark secrets of Watergate but illuminated the importance of fearless investigative reporting.”

As for Powell, LeGeyt said the former FCC chairman helped to usher in a new era in digital media while upholding the principles of a free press.

“Now, as the president and CEO of NCTA, he continues to advocate for innovations that enable freedom of speech and open discourse. Michael is truly the gold standard for how to cut through divisions — whether in Washington or in the board room — to get things done for the good of the American people.”

“In closing, I ask you to remember this: throughout history, our free press has endured through chaos and strife, victory and triumph. Bob, Michael and all of you are the custodians of this truth, entrusted with the critical mission of reporting the facts, uncovering corruption and amplifying the voices of our diverse communities.”

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