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Northeast Media Literacy Conference:

The Past, Present and Future of Media Literacy Education

Sat., Feb. 4, 2017 / Central Connecticut State University
THIS PAGE LINKED FROM: http://tinyurl.com/ccsu-fake-news

Defining the Fake News Moment: Fiction, Fad, Fatal or Media Lit Opportunity?

Plenary "unconference" breakout: 1:00 p.m.-1:45 p.m.
With Katherine Fry, Allison Butler, Mellisa Zimdars and Bill Densmore


  • There is an assuption there is real news. But what is "real news" if you don't believe in objectivity?
  • Term co-opted in many ways. Applied to alt-rogue-Twitter accounts? NRA 'news organization' to convey info about guns. Consider fake news on a continuum. I'm sticking with it because of how it is stuck with us socially. But how do we use it to think about networks of information or misinformation.
  • Definition has changed. Umbrella for whatever we want it to mean. "I don't like you, if I disagree with what you are saying, it's fake." Now an entity is fake news, not even the information. Grammarian says that is wrong. "Something that is patently false." Media Matters definition is instructive. Jonathan Swift etc. approach gets into process of critical inquiry. Fake News is not a fair term anymore. Return to the idea of "patently false."
  • We are talking so far about the use of words, is it "said" to be true or false? Another dimension: Regarding images and TV news. If you have an event that happened and a news crew takes certain pictures of the event but not others and in editing the juxtapose images to create a whole new different event -- isn't that fake news, too? The term seems so shallow.
  • Bill Densmore: Shaun King talk.
  • Re: Madonna comment about feeling like wanting to bomb the White House. Misrepresenting the intent of comments like that is seen as shameful. It is visceral that you can see how things are twisted. What about the challenge of brevity: How do you get perspective on a news event beyond the 140-character presidential Tweet?
  • Melissa Zamdars: Troubled by how people portrayed her "Fake News" list. It was referred to as "hit list" or "black list." It was morphing. She likes the idea of a continuum. We need to keep the journalism and the news connected to our conversation.
  • Allison: Instantaneous quality of the discussion goes back to Media 101 -- media in the U.S. is constructed for profit. Companies gain financially by portraying Madonna as really wanting to blow up the White House (not). EVerything instantaneous, so much appearing to be happening all the time that their is commercial gain -- companies "making a lot of money off this misinformation ... off the work we do when we share ... what are we doing to support these corporations?"
  • What about the listening audience? You deliver to the consumer what they want. What are your perspectives about how you shift the need for what we're calling the truth to finding and surfacing the individual's perception of the truth. If the viewer is preparing to go out and report how do we deal with that?
  • Katherine: The citizen journalist needs some media-literacy education. If he had critical media skills, he wouldn't have believed what he believed. What is the digital-media environment we are caught up in. How is the landscape different from what we had before? We need a new way of understanding it. This is the defining incident of fake news, but it is the exception rather than the rule.
  • Allison: Digital environment works by algorithm, so we get the information we want to read (rather than what we "should" read).
  • Fake news is used as a dismissive term, to marginalize dissent? Sometimes fake news is true. As a fan of the Yes Men, the bought the George W. Bush website when he was running and the put a lot of true, but unflattering stuff up there. It was totally fake but it was true. Are falsified press releases supposedly from an oil company "fake news" if the information they contain is, in fact, factually true?
  • Renee Hobbs: Is "fake news" the term of art now that represents a culture that has lived 80 years with a robust public-relations industry. Five PR pros for one journalist. So most of what is in the media has been shaped by a PR person. Is fake news a term becaue we are tired of the word public relations and afraid of the word propaganda. Are we returning to the state of grace that the Founders and writers of the Bill of Rights imagined, when all there was was a partisan press. Nothing they wrote about then was true in a common context, it was all spin by the Whig or other part, reflective of a corporate interest or bias. Founding Fathers thought freedom of press needed to be protected even when it was hyper-partisan. Maybe we are moving to that old paradigm where we are all propagandists, but we don't like that term or PR, we are using a new term to wrestle with something that has been part of the nation for a very long time.
  • Katherine: Likes that construct. Another aspect: With moving visuals and hyperlinks (not just people who could afford printing presses or were literate), the landscape is now really, really different. We do have to think about the news being from the person producing it.
  • Allison: When Facebook is the sixth-largest company in the world by revenues that is not a post-mass media environment. A lot of what we're exposing ourselves to is on some level subtle but is still part of the mainstream.
  • We used to call fake news propaganda. If we go back to earlier models of propaganda and the five filters (size, ownership, profits) it is now large social-media or Internet-based companies. WE need to update this. We can talk about Islamaphombia as the new anti-communism, or the POTUS trying to manipulate news and information. For media literacy, the new platform situation means we have to ask how does that change what we need to teach or how to teach it. Some are trying critical media-literacy education. We need to work together to revise the propaganda model.
  • Mellisa: Think about the actors within the new dominant media structures and how some of them are pushing back.
  • Katherine: Another constraint is journalists are trained a certain way. You follow a recipe and then you are being a good journalist. That is a huge constraint.
  • What about the embrace of things that come out -- e.g., the "Bowling Green Massacre" -- resulting in a link to donations at the ACLU. What concerns me is this becomes the inside joke of people who are up on this. But other people received this as something that actually happened and now we have a new way that people are divided. People will assume this happened and it is more thing that is being kept from there. This is a whole new dimension that is so problematic it is creating more tension. I'm anxious about this trend.
  • Allison: There is sort of an insider feature to the whole thing. Is Frederick Douglas still alive? To be on the inside has always been valuable. Social-media implies we all have something to say but it isn't necessarily true.
  • When we way fake news, we are working within a dominant frame that allows us to reduce things when in fact there is a lot of important information within that frame. The frame of fake news has currency, but it reinforces this reductionist approach. I've been thinking problematically about that. The spectacle used to be that the public could align their values with the media or think of "the other." Now that is happening through partisanship rather than through different media. Peer spaces provide a level of implicit trust tthat make it less likely that we will go further to find truth. WE have seen this confluence of a spectacle and the need to validate ssomething new, and this notion of media literacy as critical thinking which needs to be reinterrogated.
  • Other thoughts: The point about the hiearchy, slanted articles have always happened, but they have not been distributed by the president and the president's administration. The kinds of messaging we are hearing from teh White HOuse are not shaped in a way that we are using to hearing. We have to be really careful about the tendency of framing fake news as a liberal issue. There have been assumptions I've heard in some rooms that everyone voted the same. We need conservatives and liberals together to be exploring the issue of fake news or we run the risk of it being seen as a liberal issue, with no conservatives involved.
  • Katherine: We have been in training to elect Trump for a decade -- read Neil Postman. When we get our poltical information from Tv we are not encouraged to think critically -- it is all just entertainment. How did we get to this point? It is not useful to go with the conversation from teh point of 2017 here is fake news. WE took a long time to get here, there are reasons and they have nothing to do with partisanship. It has to do with our media landscape. WE have to figure out how as MLE to make sure we are not talking along ppartisan lines and go much deeper back.
  • Important to think historically and not romanticize the past as mainstream institutions without fake news. Recall how the Vietnam War was covered, for example from Gulf of Tonkin on through -- selling a "pick of lies to the people and that was being reported." Or the news reporting of the era that portrayed MLK as a communist. It is not just now that we have a great variety of citizen news through the internet. There was a flourishing of student- and counter-culture newspapers in the '60s. Remember that, too. We are focusing on reduction of news but we also to think about consumption. Pew survey finds 40% of Trump voters consume Fox; Clinton voters the highest percent was 18% for CNN. That has political implications.
  • Re trusting sources that are our friends. There is a real issue between the public creating fake news that carries over into newsrooms. A hashtag called Save Milania (sp?) and the HuffPost ran a story. I see it as a form of bullying. How do you bring empathy, digital empathy into the newsroom. Isn't this a form of fake news? Fake news can be stopped if we bring it into the newsroom, but not nnecessarily report it.
  • Can you talk about whether the continuum really exists.