Spotting Fake News

11.30.17
If we live in a post-truth age, when facts take a back seat to emotions and personal beliefs, then College of Liberal Arts (CLA) faculty want Kean University’s students ready for it. The College recently held a lecture on “fake news” at the Miron Student Center as part of its America Now lecture series, which explores contemporary issues in American society. America, Now - Teach-In: Fake News and Media Literacy, had professors from the Department of History and School of Communication, Media and Journalism discuss credibility, skepticism and fact-checking news sources. 
 
The lecture addressed ideas such as confirmation bias and selective evidence compiling, which describe the tendencies to acknowledge, collect, and share news that supports one’s personal beliefs and reject anything that challenges them. The backfire effect, a cultural phenomenon when a person’s convictions deepen when they are challenged by contradictory evidence, was also explored as it applies to the current political situation and journalism as a whole.
 
“The time of cultural gatekeepers, of the news being diligent in verifying and delivering the truth as a standard is over,” said Brian Regal, history professor and an expert in pseudoscience. “Now it’s up to you, to all of us to hold everything we receive as news to that standard when we decide if it’s legitimate or not.”
 
Journalism Professor Patricia Winters Lauro, who teaches a course on news literacy, says technology and social media have allowed the proliferation of news sources, and that has exposed vulnerabilities that can be exploited.  
 
“It’s important to make sure you have all the info before you share a post or ingest lies,” she said to the students at the lecture in regards to sharing news stories on social media. “Otherwise you can be an enabler of biased, fictitious news spreading.” 
 
Lauro also provided tips on spotting fake news sites with uncommon urls, off-sounding names from contributing writers, and writing that has a clear bias or agenda. 
 
Both professors hope that these lectures help students achieve a greater understanding of news literacy, especially with the rise of citizen and crowdsourcing journalism.   
 
The America Now series will return in the spring semester, with more topics about media, journalism and other contemporary issues. Previous lectures in the series focused on immigration and DACA, and anti-Semitism.

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