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At a time like this, who is telling the truth?
“If you get suckered into fake news, people will point at you and laugh,” states Jim Clarke, the Regional Director of the Central Region for the Associated Press. On Wednesday, Sept. 13 in Loyola Hall, Regis students attended a presentation about responsibly consuming news, and more specifically, how to identify fake news stories we are becoming all the more used to encountering.
The accomplished journalist Jim Clarke delivered the presentation. Jim went to school at George Washington University in Washington D.C. and went on to Columbia University to obtain his master's degree in Journalism. He has worked as a journalist for the Associated Press for almost 25 years. He started out as a reporter working in different states including Alaska, South Carolina, Utah as well as others. He moved on to be a news editor working in several places throughout the United States as well, including Denver, where he currently works and resides.
Mr. Clarke first addressed what fake news is by sharing, “It [fake news] usually has a thin layer of fact covering it but below it has a bunch of ideology it’s leaning towards.” The inception of fake news can be traced back to the FCC’s repeal of the “Fairness Doctrine” in 1987. This was a doctrine that forced broadcasters to give equal airtime to both liberal and conservative viewpoints. The repeal led to the beginning of partisan news which led to the Epistemic closure, or confirmation bias. This is essentially the idea that if you see something you don’t like or agree with then you refuse to believe it. This makes great breeding grounds for fake news which, as stated earlier, relies on putting forth stories that reflect the ideology of a certain group.
In a telephone interview on Sept. 17 when asked exactly when fake news became so prevalent Mr. Clarke said that it was a result of a Russian intelligence gathering in 2015-2016; they would exaggerate news on both the left and the right to cause greater political division and confuse people in the middle. Mr. Clarke also commented during the presentation, “The Russians have learned how to play us like a fiddle.”
This is one of the main factors contributing to the increasing prevalence of fake news, but the best way to avoid fake news is to know what real news looks like. Mr. Clarke gave several criteria that signal a legitimate news source.
- Chases down stories no matter the political implications or who’s feelings it hurts.
- Presents multiple viewpoints or opinions if a story is controversial.
- Acknowledges multiple viewpoints while still not legitimizing or making viewpoints equal to their counterparts if they aren’t backed up by fact.
- Won’t see most problems as black and white. They will acknowledge that one issue has multiple possible contributing factors.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Jim emphasized. To avoid falling prey to fake news, one must be a smart news consumer. Consumers need to also understand where each side is coming from. Overall, students seemed engaged with the presentation and asked questions at the end. A freshman attendee named Bethany Kwitek stated, “I found it [the presentation] very informative, I agree with the things he said about fake news. I think news should never be biased but it’s our responsibility to study our news sources and be informed on both sides so you can form your own opinion.”
*Below is a chart gave out during the presentation depicting news sources as either more conservative or more liberal in bias as well as more fact-based verses more opinion based. Those in the upper middle are the most reliable news sources.