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Community members gather to discuss fake news, misinformation and political bias

On Oct. 22, students and faculty gathered in classroom 1 of the Raymond H. Fogler Library to discuss news literacy for the upcoming midterm elections. The event was hosted by Judith Rosenbaum, assistant professor in the communication and journalism department, and Jen Bonnet, the social sciences and humanities librarian.

Bonnet began the event by discussing news reception and bias. She emphasized how susceptible people are to quick and easy headlines rather than real, vetted news sources. After this introduction, Bonnet had members participate in an exercise to practice spotting fake headlines from real ones.

Attendees also discussed where people got their news from and what they believed the term “fake news” meant.

Rosenbaum herself believes that although “fake news” is a relatively new phrase, it isn’t exactly a new concept.

“It’s always been important,” Rosenbaum said.

“I think now with the polarized political climate that we have, people are more aware of the terms like fake news and misinformation,” Bonnet said. “But, I mean, that has always been around. It’s just more at the front of people’s minds and amplified by the internet, the rapid pace of which you share information.”

This workshop has been offered twice before in the spring semester of 2018. Although the event is already semi-regular, Rosenbaum and Bonnet said they had a special reason to host this event now.

“We wanted to provide an outlet for students to think through issues of fake news because it’s been so prevalent from the administration all the way down to local news,” Bonnet said. “It was very successful in the spring but also the midterm elections are in 15 days and so we wanted to equip people with some skills they could use to think through information they might be finding.”

The Fogler Library website states that misinformation can be published for many reasons, including political gain, advertising revenue, for commentary on politics or culture or even as a joke or prank. The website offers in-depth information on these topics as well as resources to learn how to more efficiently interpret information in the era of fake news.

“I think we take a lot of what we see and hear through the media for granted, without thinking about it, without giving it critical thought,” Rosenbaum said. “Any form of media literacy for me is vital because a lot of people don’t realize that what we see in the media is a production; its a construction.”

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