Accusations of “fake news” seem to be everywhere these days. Claims come from people inhabiting all regions of the political spectrum, making it hard for the American public to figure out who to trust.
The Department of Communication hosted a CultureConnect event entitled “A Survivor’s Guide to the News” on Wednesday, November 15 discussing this issue. The panelists included prominent guests within the local news community as well as members of the Messiah community.
To open the discussion, Dr. Peter Powers, Dean of the School of Humanities, called Messiah students to be critical consumers of news. The panelists added to these sentiments by explaining what they are doing in their news outlets to provide objective news to consumers.
Cate Barron, vice president of Conent at PennLive and The Patriot News, explained how she keeps diversity in the newsroom. She stated, “It’s that diversity of thought that really keeps you balanced.” News Director for ABC27, CJ Hoyt, agreed with Barron, saying that it is important to have people with varying perspectives in order to deliver objective news to the viewers.
According to Hoyt, television remains the primary, and most trusted, news source, but the problem with this lies in the national, 24/7 news cycle because it tends to chip away at the trustworthiness of the industry. “The moment we step away from the truth, we lose our credibility with audience,” said Hoyt.
While much of the responsibility falls on the news media, it is also up to the consumers to seek the objective truth. Carolyn Blatchley, executive director of the Cumberland County Library System, said, “Often people don’t care about the truth—they care about what supports their opinion.”
If consumers are only seeking their opinion, they are not using the media to its full potential. Kathleen Pavelko, President and CEO of WITF, spoke to the other side of this issue. She said that if a story is unfavorable, whether in Harrisburg or Washington, it is seen as biased. Hoyt added a warning for consumers to be skeptical if a story speaks to one’s greatest hopes or fears. He stated, “before you share, check.”