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Skidmore College

Skidmore alumni analyze fake news

November 7, 2017

“You Americans have it all wrong. You believe what you read in the papers.”

That’s what a Russian man told Steven Rosenbaum ’83 when he was visiting the country. It is what inspired him to understand fake news—though that may not have been the phrase for it at the time. After this discussion, Rosenbaum flew back to Skidmore, where he was news director of WSPN. He gathered his team and unplugged the Associated Press wire service, encouraging the station to stop reading the news. Now, over a quarter-century later, he’s analyzing the same topic.

Professor Andrew Lindner ’03 may not have been inspired by a spontaneous intercultural discussion, but he also has investigated the fake news phenomenon. His research is focused 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.” Rosenbaum also highlighted this new means of reporting in his TED Talk, given while participating in the TED Residency program, considering livestream tools such as Facebook live that anyone with an account has access to.

Rosenbaum argues what is a generally unpopular opinion: Fake news is a good thing. “Fake news is the end of an era, and that we are arriving at the beginning of a new one. An era that I would suggest is awake news” he explains. To become more “awake,” or aware of what is credible and what is not, Lindner advises considering the source and investigating whether the source is owned by a larger corporation. Rosenbaum would agree with this advice, adding that we must be responsible news consumers by “exercising restraint and responsible social sharing.” Otherwise, we are only contributing to the spread of a false narrative.

Listen to this and other episodes of This is Skidmore, Skidmore's award-winning podcast here.

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