Fake news with Andrew Lindner
Andrew Lindner ’03 calls himself a “slashy” major for having earned a psychology-sociology degree. After earning his Ph.D. and M.A. in sociology at Pennsylvania State University, he returned to Skidmore, where he now teaches courses such as “Social Research Methods,” where students design their own sociological study, and “Social Science Journalism,” a new course exposing students to important tools to report social issues and ultimately complete their own major reporting project.
Lindner has focused his research on citizen journalism, which he defines as “people who are not trained reporters, and maybe not even paid, reporting the news—whatever they construct as news—in their own way.” With advances in technology including smartphones, this type of journalism has become increasingly common. Lindner explains that website-based citizen journalism peaked in 2012, when individuals would post to their branded blog, rather than a status on a social media site. This peak in 2012 occurred, arguably, with the increased use of social media sites and live-streaming such as with Facebook Live, which opens the door for more acts of citizen journalism, whether intended or not.
The recent election cycle amplified the discussion of seemingly dishonest media outlets and the heavy reliance of websites such as Vox, Breitbart, and FiveThirtyEight, which Lindner refers to as “digital news startups.” These sites, he explains, are performing the roles of journalism differently from traditional outlets such as NBC or ABC, and are actually not “startups” at all. For example, FiveThirtyEight is owned by the Walt Disney Co., which also owns ABC.
Lindner’s advice to Internet users to suss out “fake news” is to first consider the source, and investigate if the site is owned by a larger corporation. He also advises researching other sources to determine if multiple outlets are reporting the same story, and “if it seems fishy and confirms your view of the world,” it may require deeper investigation.