By: Olivia Walters, News Editor
To the delight of journalism students and interested guests, the first forum of a three-part series called “Media and Politics in a Post-Truth Era” was held last Thursday at Younts Conference Center. The panel featured a star-studded cast of reputable figures in the media world, including Michael Oreskes with NPR, Jason Tanz with WIRED and Jonathan Albright, Ph.D., research director at Columbia Journalism School.
Each speaker prompted an important discussion about the fabrication of news by bringing their own experience into a broader overview of the current fake news environment.
Tanz’s contribution centered around what media scholars call “filter bubbles,” search engines that anticipate users’ inquiries through autocomplete. Google also displays sites and ranks those that get the most traffic. As a result, the search engine has a prominent role in shaping public opinion.
Following Tanz’s insights, Albright took the podium to discuss how many fake news sites have a “predatory focus on emotions.” His research focuses on digital ecosystems flooded with misinformation which typically aim to get a rise out of consumers.
Facebook was mentioned as the easiest platform for sharing fake news by all three speakers. When considering Facebook’s “reaction” feature via emoji, Albright explained his research on the dissemination of “outrage porn” by fake news sites. News content is often written to play on readers’ emotions.
Finally, Oreskes brought the conversation back into focus by calling upon the dire need of an informed citizenry. Given the confluence of fact and fake news in today’s digital world, Oreskes enunciated what is at stake for democracy should news consumers no longer be able to distinguish between the two. The NPR senior representative passionately spoke about reinforcing and favoring a free press over news press releases and fake news sources.
Part two of the series continues on August 31 in McAlister Auditorium, where NBC superstar Chuck Todd from “Meet the Press” is set to speak. The series concludes on September 7 with the forum “Winning the Information War: Where Do We Go from Here?”