DOYLESTOWN, Pa., — (5/15/17)- How can the average person stay informed in a world with intentionally fake news meant to deceive readers, “alternative facts” and a growing sea of potential sources? That was the question that guest speakers from CNN and NPR discussed at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, this April.
The event, “Fact or Fiction: Responsible Journalism and Becoming News Literate,” attracted a variety of people. Some were journalists, but many were just interested in learning about how to better inform themselves on a daily basis.
Guests included CNN Senior Media Correspondent and host of “Reliable Sources” Brian Stelter and NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik. Dr. Tanya Casas, interim dean of The School of Business and Humanities moderated the event and two faculty members from the English department Dr. Jim O’Connor and Dr. Jessica McCall served on the panel.
“It’s important to take stock in how much has changed in the span of one generation,” said Stelter of the way people get information.
He said that online content has offered some great benefits, but that the number of potential sources consumers need to evaluate has grown as a result.
“I’m overwhelmed by all the stuff that’s out there, all the information, all the content, all the news and news-like substances, things that aren’t really news, but smell like news sometimes,” said Stelter.
Stelter said with an entire spectrum of news–ranging from made up or fake news, designed to trick consumers, to the most reliable sources–it is more important than ever to engage in news literacy.
Folkenflik said that this “fire hose” of information is requiring more work on the part of the consumer to figure out “what is valid and what’s not.” He suggested comparing source material to stories now and then when deciding which outlets to trust.
Dr. O’Connor, a former New York Times reporter who teaches media and communication at DelVal, brought up the value of local news in understanding what’s really happening in communities.
Dr. McCall brought up how the amount of context required to fully understand an issue can’t always be included in one story.
Folkenflik said one news story is like “a tile in a larger mosaic” and that it requires a variety of viewpoints and sources to truly understand an issue.
The event was held in celebration of the inauguration of Dr. Maria Gallo, DelVal’s first female president. The topic was selected because it is of great personal importance to the new president.
“A vibrant, democratic society requires a well-informed public,” said Dr. Gallo. “It requires the ability to discern true journalism from other types of information and the ability to recognize news from opinion. News and information literacy matter and as an institution of higher education, we play a critical role in making sure that the skills to achieve it are taught, not only to our students, but also to the community.”