This past Monday, May 7, Professors Jonathan Rabb and James Lough discussed issues with today’s media in the SCAD’s Museum of Art’s auditorium.

During Professor Lough’s presentation, he gave six helpful tips for audience members to detect the truth.

  1. Learn about the source and their biases.
  2. Learn about the author.
  3. Research supporting sources on the same topic.
  4. Check the date.
  5. Ask if the piece is a joke or satire.
  6. Question your own biases.

By following these steps, people will be less likely to fall for fake or even recycled news.

In his typical comedic fashion, Lough pulled up specific examples for each tip, the most shocking of which was an “journalist’s” biography. The site appeared to be on CNN, but in fact it was “dummy site,” one that is made to look like an existing, creditable site.

Why does this all matter? Why should you look into numerous sources from different view points before you come to a conclusion on a topic? As Lough argues, “the trust in the news directly reflects our trust in society.”

While many (including our current president) view the news as untrustworthy, the media serves an important role as the “watchdog” for the government. By discrediting all media, the government will no longer need to worry about their dirty laundry being exposed since citizens will merely believe it is slander or fiction.

Lough and Rabb did an admirable job staying politically neutral, something not easily done today. They agreed that staying informed is essential since politics play a huge role in our daily lives. Lough urged attendees that simply “giving up since [the media] is already rigged” is irresponsible.

Rabb’s half of the presentation piggybacked on this concept, labeling biases as dangerous since prevent citizens from interpreting the facts for themselves. As Rabb continued to comment, we are living in an age “where everyone is finding someone to blame and both sides are culpable.”

Rabb then went on to mention that the internet is smart and therefore plays a part in our ignorance. Advertisements that pop up along the sides of sites are all tailored based on our past web navigation. The same goes for news articles, but unfortunately this narrows our perspective and leads to digesting one-sided news.

When Rabb asked how many audience members actively seek stories on the same topic but from the opposite point of view, not one hand was raised. Fake news obviously takes advantage of our tendency to read like-minded news and the growing tension between political parties. Erroneous reporters target people by rhetorically presenting themselves to fall in line with target audiences. The most common offenders are the “reporters” on YouTube. Although they may have good things to say, this type of open forum does not permit viewers an opportunity to digest the material quite like print.

In addition to reading news from opposite parties, the professors suggested reading from international, and therefore less biased, sources such as the BBC News, Le Monde or The Guardian. Sites like factcheck.com or snopes.com can also help spot exaggerations or outright lies. Finally, the Flipboard app can organize credible news sources based on your passions.

Don’t give up on the journalists. Stay informed, just be smart about who you choose to listen to.