Gabriela Cañas (EFE President): We are strengthening EFEVerifica, dedicated to fact-checking all the suspicious news and stories that are poisoning the truth
Efe is increasing the team working for fact-checking, "when the pandemic has multiplied another virus, the virus of the fake news", according to Gabriela Cañas, the President of the news agency. But although it is a public news agency, Efe did not receive any special help from the Spanish government during the pandemic.
Being new at the leadership of EFE must be a challenge, especially when your appointment came with the pandemic. Which were the main problems for you in the first months as President of EFE?
Clearly, my main problem has been dealing with a huge News Agency whose Headquarters were closed because of the lockdown --and still are almost empty--, while a number of our professionals were working out there risking their health and even their lives. I am very proud of all of them because EFE's services have been running extremely well. They did a very good job under these difficult circumstances.
How do you see the role of a public news agency in crisis times versus “normal” times?
In a crisis like this, News Agencies have to go the extra mile. It is our responsibility to do an extraordinary effort to keep people well informed, particularly in times of pain, confusion, and fake news. In times when everyone needs to know what's going on with the pandemic, how to cope with it, what their behaviour should be, how to fight the COVID 19 while taking care of your own well being and the lives of your loved ones.
EFE is very involved in fighting disinformation worldwide. Why do news agencies do it? Is this related to the “public mission”?
EFE is, indeed, very committed to fighting disinformation. Actually, we are strengthening our very able service, EFEVerifica, dedicated to fact-checking all the suspicious news and stories that are poisoning the truth. More experts to join a team that is working very well, with a high professional standard, to denounce false information and expose the true facts with our reliable sources. This effort is crucial when the pandemic has multiplied another virus, the virus of the fake news. With our current experience, we are very determined to bolster the fact-checking in America for the sake of our clients all over the Continent. And, yes, this has everything to do with what you call "the public mission" in a serious and responsible media.
Did EFE receive any special help from the Spanish government during this pandemic? Did the state get involved in helping the media in general during the past months?
Well, the answer is no. EFE did not receive any "special help" at all. The Government is reaching up with public resources to some media that are, like of all us, in the middle of an extremely difficult situation. Some of our clients have problems to cover their fees and advertising is very poor, even though people are reading more newspapers, listening to more radio and watching more television than ever before, not to mention social networks. But there's a very long way to go before the market recovers and we get back to normal business.
How do you see the future of media after the pandemic?
I do think that this pandemic requires true and reliable news stories. It is people's right. Down the line, betting for good, professional journalism will be a benefit in the long term for any quality news agency.
I tend to agree with what EANA'S president, Peter Kropsch, said during his last presentation online. There will be a mild recovery by the end of September; business will suffer due to the cancellation of sport mass events --among those the Olympic Games-- and the ways and means to work in the media will change a lot for all of us. Let us hope that we can overcome this crisis to be in a stronger position during the second semester of the next year. But to me, it is crystal clear that we have to adapt our companies, very rapidly, to the challenges of the new technologies. We all have learned a lesson: to renew or to die. That's it. The good news for us is that EFE has shown during this pandemia its capacity of adaptation and we have plans to continue on that way.
Interview by Alexandru Giboi (EANA Secretary General) for the "EANA Top Voices" project.