On this Halloween edition of Shop Talk, the panelists say the concept of "fake news" is one of the scariest things happening to journalism today.
Panelist Jasmine Crighton said news consumers need to educate themselves and shouldn’t believe everything they see on the internet. They also need to be aware of outlets that are trying to make money or promote agendas by running false stories.
Crighton said the recent video of a shark swimming down a flooded street was fake but it got retweeted many times and many people thought it was real. She said news outlets must find new ways of verifying crowdsourced material so they don’t get fooled.
Panelist Will Buss said those who spread fake news have a right to free speech. But he cited the so-called “pizzagate” scandal from last fall as an example of the damage – and danger – that can come from intentionally false information.
Buss added that those who find profit or pleasure in misleading the gullible are damaging democracy. And further damage is done by those who smear factual reporting done by legitimate media.
Panelist Rich Egger said it’s a weird time to be a journalist. He said it doesn’t help when the president of the United States constantly accuses legitimate news organizations of engaging in fake news – while at the same time disseminating misinformation himself.
Egger said some people are willing to believe nonsense if the fake information fits into their preconceived notions.
The panelists agree that reporters sometimes make honest mistakes – which are corrected as quickly as possible. That’s much different than what’s done by those who promote intentionally false narratives.
Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.