Panelists, students discuss the spread of fake news during Speak Up, Speak Out event


Associate journalism professor Ed Simpson speaks to the audience before the Fake News and Media Literacy panel Jan. 24 at Bovee University Center auditorium.

More than 100 people gathered Jan. 24 in the Bovee University Center Auditorium for a Speak Up, Speak Out discussion titled "Fake News: Why Should You Care."

Edgar Simpson, a journalism faculty member, moderated the discussion along with six panelists, including Central Michigan University alumni and current faculty: 

  • Chad Livengood, senior reporter for Crain's Business Detroit 
  • Bryce Huffman, reporter for Michigan Radio in Grand Rapids
  • Arielle Hines, reporter for the Petoskey News-Review
  • Jeremy McBain, executive editor for the Petoskey News-Review
  • Kyla Stepp, CMU faculty member of political science and public administration 
  • Rick Sykes, associate chair of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts

Questions were asked not only to panelists, but to students in the audience, with answers regarding how fake news is defined in the wake of President Donald Trump and how to tackle and recognize fake news.  

To initiate the conversation, Sykes said his definition of fake news is dealing with the inability to come up with an agreeable set of facts. 

"Today we're faced with alternative facts, which morphed into the dispute that news is fake because it doesn't agree with other facts," Sykes said.

The panelists and students both agreed that social media — Facebook being the main outlet —
runs rampant and people just accept the news they receive, not stopping to double check the facts. 

Panelists discussed fake news being a major factor in the 2016 presidential election, which resulted with individuals shifting their political views and voting decisions.

Covering statewide news, Huffman said that while speaking to individuals in city halls about fear of losing their healthcare, they would rationalize their fear from the information they read on news outlets.

"At a certain point you have to wonder, where are people getting their news from and why aren't they going to news sources they find trustworthy?" Huffman said. 

"The implication that people can read what someone wrote in eight minutes on Facebook as opposed to information journalists have worked on for decades -- writing and checking the facts for accuracy," he said. "It's sometimes scary to know their work can mean much less than work that's completely fabricated." 

When asked about how to deal with the spread of fake news, McBain suggested when questioning if a news source is trustworthy, evaluate how they handle making mistakes. 

"In journalism, it is nearly impossible to not make mistakes," McBain said. "We all make mistakes, but what's really important is how you admit to the mistakes and correct it as soon as it happens. If a news outlet is adamant that they don't make mistakes, that should be an indicator that they're not trustworthy."

Detroit junior Jonathan Hosey believed the panelists effectively educated the audience on the idea of fake news. He thinks fake news is an issue that has had an impact on the younger generation, who seems to question the credibility of information they receive. 

He said the opportunity for students to engage with professionals on a topic like fake news is very beneficial.

"College students as a whole have so much curiosity and (so many) questions," he said. "It is great that students can have a voice, express their thoughts and questions and get answers to those questions."