Every year in this season of diplomas and mortarboards, the local charity we host in memory of our son—Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Foundation—awards a scholarship to a high school senior whose well-rounded pursuit of excellence echoes Harrison’s. He was born with a rare form of dwarfism, but his 3-foot, 38-pound frame was the only thing small about him. In his 15 years, Harrison lived life large. When you lose a child, you gain the privilege of helping others in your child’s name.

As part of the Harrison Apar award’s application process, we ask candidates to write an essay to assess their critical thinking skills.

This year’s essay assignment was: “Do you believe ‘fake news’ exists in media coverage?”

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The 2018 recipient of our award is Rebekah Casino, who carried a 97.2 grade point average. She is described by one of her teachers as having “exceptional analytical abilities, demonstrating insight well beyond her years.” Rebekah is headed this fall to New York University.

Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Scholarship Essay

By Rebekah Casino

Is seeing really believing? The age of social media and digital information puts this age-old concept into question. With the abundance of information and the ease of publishing information online today, it’s logical to question some stories.

The influence of “fake news,” while not categorized under this term, has been around for decades. In the 1950s, U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy had a major impact on the American people by claiming, without evidence, that he knew of government officials who were Communist. This led to the firing of dozens of innocent people because of the ingrained fear among citizens of Communist influence within American government.

Although the information McCarthy claimed to have was false, it still had a huge effect on many lives. I would categorize “McCarthyism” as “fake news.”

Another question we should ask is how to define and categorize “fake news.” In my opinion, “fake news” is when a professional media outlet releases outright fictitious information to persuade their audience to agree with a political view.

This was seen extensively in the 2016 United Stated presidential election. Major news channels chose to broadcast certain stories that would attempt to convince their viewers to vote for a particular candidate.

Recently, a video was released in the media depicting the Syrian government using chemical weapons against its own people. In retaliation, a few Western nations decided to bomb areas of Syria. Later on, One America News found evidence that the video released by the Syrian terrorists was staged, and they published video segments and articles on the discovery of this “fake news.”

Other, more mainstream networks did not report on the findings in Syria and continue to push the belief that the Western nations were justified in bombing Syria. In this case, “fake news” had an impact on not only citizens but the leaders of some of the world’s most powerful nations.

The influence associated with “fake news” is a deadly weapon that could be used against countries around the world. To reduce the extreme impacts of “fake news,” as a society we should question the motives behind every major news story before we take action to resolve a possibly misleading situation.

Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events, and people through marketing agency APAR PR. Among his clients are Krav Maga New York, Our Montessori School, Yorktown Grange Fair, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, GoJo Clan Productions, Quantum Dynamix, Peekskill’s Art Industry Media initiative, the forthcoming book “Fisch Tales: The Making of a Millennial Baby Boomer,” and interdisciplinary artist Elizabeth Phelps Meyer. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or 914-275-6887.