By Gianluca D’Elia and Lauren Lavelle
A handful of Rider professors provided tips and advice on how to detect and avoid fake news at the “Who Says So? Fake News and Responsible Citizenship” seminar on March 1.
After an introduction from Assistant Professor, Librarian Joan Serpico, Director of the Master of Arts in Business Communication program Pamela Brown discussed the history of fake news and stressed the fact that it is not a new concept. It has simply been undercover in the news outlets people enjoy every day.
“When I think of fake news, to me, that term should only be used when something is created with the intent to mislead,” said Brown. “The motive is political or commercial, with commercial meaning to make money off of fake news. For example, a newspaper trying to push up its circulation or a television program trying to get higher ratings. All of those can attract advertising dollars and all of that means they make more money.”
Brown also provided an answer to the question of why people believe fake news.
“Today, there is a general loss of trust in mainstream news media,” said Brown. “A lot of that mistrust is promoted by political ends. I think we have to be aware of why people are encouraging us to be distrustful of the media. There is also a general loss of influence by the mainstream media. They used to have a lot more influence over public opinion.”
Brown pointed out that there is also a loss of local media.
“People can spend their whole lives without knowing a journalist,” said Brown. “You used to know your local newspaper, you knew the reporters and the editors and you knew they were trustworthy people. Today, community after community in America has lost its local reporters. There is no local news for people in this country, and I think that adds to loss of influence and trust.”
The next segment offered a more modern definition of fake news and gave examples of current fake news trends sweeping the nation, such as the “Harambe for President” debacle.
“It seems like we’ve entered into a period of increased fake news and news that’s become questionable in various ways,” said Assistant Professor Olivia Newman of the department of political science. “We have entered the post-truth era. We know it’s not totally new in history but this seems to be a time where we need to worry about whether or not the media we’re consuming has a strong relationship with the truth and reality, or if that relationship is a little more tenuous.”
The presentations closed with a close look at the sudden vulnerability of society presented by Frank Rusciano, professor in the political science department, and tips for spotting fake news provided by Serpico and Associate Professor, Librarian Diane Campbell.
Senior psychology major Aliyah Veltz said, “I learned a lot about the history of fake news and the hard line journalists face between staying impartial and documenting the truth, and calling out lies. I think avoiding fake news is hard because any site can look legitimate or feel legitimate because it confirms a bias I have. However, by checking out the website, the source of the information, the logic of the claim and who else is reporting the information, anybody can halt the spread of fake news, even if it does take more work than just reading the title and sharing the article.”