Through her internships for PolitiFact, Voice of America and USA Today, Sudiksha Kochi learned about the life of a reporter and the ins and outs of investigative journalism.
But the George Mason University senior also received a master class in misinformation—how to spot it, how not to spread it, and how to fight against it.
The experience prompted her to put what she learned into a book, “Unfiltered,” that will be published in December by New Degree Press.
“There are a lot of people out there who don’t trust journalism. But they easily believe in the misinformation that is circulating on social media,” said Kochi, a communication major with concentrations in journalism and media production/criticism.
“I thought it’d be really helpful to offer strategies for early career journalists, for high schoolers and college students, and also for professionals who aren’t in the journalism field to combat misinformation on a daily basis,” she said.
For her book, Kochi spoke with psychologists to learn why people can easily fall into the dangerous trap of misinformation.
She interviewed fact checkers as well as journalists, including National Public Radio journalist Tonya Mosley, PolitiFact founder Bill Adair and others to outline specific principles for news reporting that she believes are vital to combating misinformation.
The strategies she developed center around the concept she branded as “perspective journalism,” which combines the principles of fact checking and news reporting.
Part of that perspective is the importance of bringing local journalism into national reporting, which makes space for unique perspectives, Kochi said.
“When journalists decide to engage with their local communities, they are helping combat misinformation,” she said. “A lot of times, misinformation occurs because we hear what people in higher positions have to say, but we often lose the perspective or the side of local community members who might have a different experience.”
Kochi is a staff writer for the Fourth Estate, Mason’s student-run newspaper, as well as president of the Mason chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
She recently worked on the USA Today investigative team covering the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida. She said she made more than 80 phone calls to condo tenants and relatives. The experience, she said, helped her understand the importance of compassion and putting yourself in other people’s shoes to create a society of informed individuals.
Also helping her become a stronger reporter was Mason’s journalism program, which Kochi said gave her the opportunity to learn from experienced communication professionals.
“In addition to intelligence, curiosity, and persistence, she had what many truth-finders lack—charm,” said Jack Curry, an adjunct faculty member and journalism instructor at Mason. “Sources will open up to her because she makes them feel comfortable.”
Kochi, who received the 2021 Excellence in Journalism Award from Mason’s Department of Communication, has already put that talent to good use as she researched her book.
She said she sees “Unfiltered” as “a tool that positively impacts a person’s life” and promotes more trust in journalism.