A GUIDE TO FAKE NEWS

Elizabeth Brunner (left) and Malliga Och (right)Thomas Attebery

Staff Writer

ISU’s Malliga Och and Elizabeth Brunner, professors of global studies and communications, respectively, host a radio show on KISU called “Know Your Media” about issues related to news and the media.

As it says on the show’s webpage, they are “dedicated to critically examining the media and how to be responsible consumers of information and conscientious citizens.”

The idea came about from Brunner’s desire after the election to run a workshop about media literacy.

“After the election I was really frustrated by what I was seeing,” Brunner said. “The way people were talking about the media, people reading fake news, people buying into fake news. That was troubling to me as a media scholar and teacher.”

Brunner wanted to work on something that would be available to the community. Since she and Och were friends beforehand, she immediately contacted her colleague regarding the running of this proposed workshop.

“Since I study women in politics and sexism and the coverage of female candidates, the treatment of stories I was seeing was particularly hurtful,” Och said. “The reason why I liked the idea of workshops is that I see students having a hard time understanding which sources are reliable and where they can quote from – things like not understanding that Wikipedia is not a quotable source in academic work.”

Och says that teaching students the difference between fake news and real news and how to verify whether a source is good or not is a difficult thing, and Brunner agrees. The catalyst for the original idea morphing from a regular workshops into a radio show hosted by Och and Brunner came from Zac Gershberg, a professor in the department of Communication, Media and Persuasion. Gershberg, who is also the guest of their third show, suggested radio as a format when the idea was brought up.

“I don’t remember this, but apparently according my mother. I always wanted to be on radio,” Och said. “So I’m checking this off my bucket list even though I didn’t know it was on there.”

The duo has recorded two shows so far, the first about the importance of journalism in daily life, and the second is about media and authoritarianism. Shelbie Harris and Madison Shumway, both journalism students, were guests on the first show.

“Even though it wasn’t what we first envisioned, it ended up being a really good and quick way of getting this information out,” Brunner said. “KISU is really easy to collaborate with.”

Another attraction of radio as a format, according to Och, is that whereas a workshop is a one-time thing, radio is broadcasted to a potentially larger audience and is also posted online. The  first show is currently online at http://www.prx.org/series/37620-know-your-media-audio-archive. The second show will be posted March 20.

“It would be great if it could be used in classrooms eventually,” Och said.

The upcoming third episode is about fake news and how to spot it. The show will be on hiatus during the summer because both professors will be abroad doing research – Brunner in China and Och in Europe – but the two would like to continue in the fall.

“It would be great to do more with a whole series of guest hosts,” Brunner said.

They also encourage students and others to tweet at them with suggestions for topics they would like to hear about in future shows. The shows official twitter handle is @Know_Your_Media.

They will approach the topic of fake news from an academic perspective, breaking down the topic into areas of completely false stories, misinformation, strategic elimination or manipulation of data and of course simple mistakes.

“When someone like Donald Trump says ‘fake news’ he seems to use it simply to categorize any story he doesn’t like.” Brunner said. “And that is dangerous and harmful. We want to say ‘What is fake news? Here’s an example, and here’s how you spot it.’”

“Oftentimes, online stories provide links that link to poor sources, or the links are broken, are there simply is no link to a source to back something up,” Och said. “So knowing how to spot it is an important conversation that we need to have.”

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