Fact or Fiction, A Panel on Media Literacy

By: Alyssa Murphree, April 12, 2017

“We’re all sources. What is reliable?”

This is the question asked at the beginning of the Fact or Fiction: Responsible Journalism and Becoming News Literate panel hosted by Delaware Valley University on April 5th. The special event leading up to the inauguration of our new president, Dr. Maria Gallo, welcomed two nationally esteemed journalists to the stage of the Life Science Building auditorium, CNN Senior Media Correspondent Brian Stelter and NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik.

The panel was based off of pre-determined questions and prompts in order to encourage the discussion of modern media literacy among the members on stage which included Stelter, Folkenflik, interim Dean of the School of Business and Humanities Dr. Tanya Casas, and English professors Dr. Jessica McCall and Dr. James O’Connor.

One of the primary topics of the panel revolved around a term we’ve been hearing quite often lately, “fake news”. Fake news is a story that’s actively designed to trick you and often takes shape in the form of clickbait news articles. It can be described as one piece of a spectrum of content, but unfortunately it falls into the worst end of that spectrum.

As anticipated, many comparisons were drawn to the most recent presidential election. This includes the events leading up to the election and the aftermath we are currently witnessing in the media due to the controversial nature of the Trump administration, as well as hot topics surrounding the decisions of the administration. In a powerful revelation made during the discussion, we analyzed the importance of what’s known as the “local angle” in news reporting. Many democrats were confident that Hillary Clinton would win the election, but that’s only because they were looking at the big picture, which in this case, did not do any good. Many politicians campaign in large U.S. cities such as New York and Washington D.C. where the concentration of votes is undoubtedly high and expected. This is also where the majority of news coverage regarding politics takes place. Small towns don’t usually make the cut in this equation. By losing the local angle, you lose the consensus of voters that still count, even though they slip through the cracks, and unfortunately under the news radar. Regarding Clinton’s loss of the election, many news outlets who lost that local angle say they never saw it coming. According to Stelter, “local news cutbacks have led to more distrust in the media.”

This brings up another question, “how can you be seen as a reliable source?” Folkenflick said it is important to be fairminded, honest brokers of information. “In order to be an engaged member of society, you have to read from the other side,” he advised. This is important to recognize, especially when it comes to politics. Stelter said the key to gaining trust is by “taking the viewer on the journey with us” and that “local sources have the closest connection and are the most reliable.”

From local news to social media, the way we obtain news is constantly changing, and all parts of society need the ability to keep up. Our news consumption can have an effect on our morals and how we interact with others, so it is important to treat it as a priority in our lives rather than a small fragment. Collecting information from various sources is the best way to stay well informed, with an emphasis on obtaining facts from opposing sides. The way in which news is being shared through social media has allowed for constructive debate within the comment sections, which is beneficial in encouraging critical thinking in readers. Folkenflik says it is healthy to consume “a well-rounded news diet”. Either you gorge at a buffet, or you eat at a fine dining restaurant.

As the event comes to a close, our panelists say a few final words. Based on the topics discussed that night, the election, climate change, fake news, and clickbait, I believe Folkenflik says it best when he concludes with, “thank you Trump for the renaissance in fact checking.”

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