Follow Checklist to Identify Fake News

Social media has created self-affirming echo chambers that encourage division and reinforce our own beliefs, according to Dr. Kristie Bunton, dean of the Bob Schieffer School of Journalism at Texas Christian University and Sylvia Komatsu, chief content officer, KERA and KXT. The pair emphasized the responsibility of citizens to engage with reliable news sources and not accept all information on social media at face value.


“The founding fathers felt citizens had the legal right to information that they need to know,” said Bunton. “Journalists benefit from that belief, but the right belongs to us.”


Bunton said  “junk food journalism” has created an appetite for gossip. “We blame social media, but consumers need to stop being tempted by the candy of social media and increase Washington Post vegetables in their diet,” Buntin said.


“We must be monitorial citizens who engage with reliable news sources,” she said. Sensationalism is nothing new and has been around since the 1400s. To weed out the truth from fake news, Bunton suggested a checklist to spot propaganda.


Komatsu said the world of journalism has experienced tectonic shifts – the business model has changed, credibility has fallen and fake news is on the scene. Thousands of journalists have lost their jobs over the last few years and downsizing has occurred throughout Texas and the nation. The introduction of fake news across social media platforms has polarized society.


“I’m grateful to the Star-Telegram every day for just being here,” Komatsu said.  “How do we talk to each other? Facebook allows us to block those we don’t agree with. Undermining the media is undermining the underpinnings of our democracy.”


Bunton said the media tended to chase the latest “shiny, bright thing” during the 2016 presidential campaign and missed the real pain experienced in the heartland. “Our job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” she said. “We missed it.”


One of Komatsu’s concerns was the consolidation of radio, television and newspaper holdings across the nation. “I’m grateful to work for a nonprofit that focuses on the public’s needs,” she said.

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