In the last of four events that helped promote media literacy and education on how to spot real news, which was led by 2019-2020 Wilkin Chair recipient and Communication Department Chair, Diana Montague, the fight against fake news wrapped up with an escape from fake news. The event consisted of an escape-room type of game, where all who attend will have to have a keen eye to spot out fake news and look for clues to point out they are fake pieces of info. Although the term fake news gets throw around quite frequently, Montague wants people to know that there is no such thing as ‘fake news’.
“It [fake news] is an oxymoron. If it’s fake, it isn’t news. So, I like to use the terms ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’,” said Montague.
While the two terms may sound very similar, according to Montague, they are very different.
“So, your inaccuracies and misinformation, are [when] people may not get the right message and it may be incomplete,” said Montague. “Disinformation is when this information is delivered to deliberately deceive.”
The internet can be a great tool for promoting media literacy and it can help inform people. But at the same time, it can also be used as a tool to spread fake stories and lies to mass audiences. Montague agrees.
“Certainly, it’s given research tools to find the information they weren’t able to before, so that’s a positive. On the other hand, it’s also allowed people to be mischievous and create falsehoods and distribute them as truth,” said Montague. “With the internet, you can send them around the world instantaneously.”
With the implementation of Twitter and other social media platforms being used as a news tool, more and more people try to get the story out faster rather than correctly. One recent example was the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, along with 7 others. ABC News chief national correspondent, Matt Gutman, reported that all of his children had passed alongside him. As a result of reporting this, Gutman was suspended from ABC News. This is a struggle in the industry that goes back for years.
“In the history of journalism, everybody wants to be first and initially in legitimate journalism, you had enough newspapers that were competing with each other, literally. With the newsies out there hawking the papers. So, if someone had newer news, they’d want that copy,” said Montague. “In that competition, people aren’t realizing that not double-checking your information can have devastating effects. You gotta check your sources.”
With this event wrapping up her time as Wilkin Chair, Montague is hopeful that everyone had a fun time while also learning to check and double-check your news sources.
“I am hoping that in a fun, competitive environment, that they will check facts they find in the news, they will learn how to distinguish the difference between opinion and fact because one of our challenges today is that opinions get spewed out there as if they are fact.,” said Montague. “They will learn how to use reference imaging tools online and the other thing they will learn is how to evaluate social media claims.”