Community Life

'Think Like a Journalist' - Seton Hall Professor Gives Presentation on How to Spot Fake News

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Anthony DePalma, Writer-in-Residence for Seton Hall University's College of Communications and the Arts, explains to the audience how to spot fake news.
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Anthony DePalma
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Anthony DePalma
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MILLBURN, NJ - Longtime journalist and educator Anthony DePalma, who is now the Writer-in-Residence for Seton Hall University's College of Communications and the Arts, recently spoke at the Millburn Library about how to spot fake news.

DePalma, who was a foreign correspondent and reporter for "The New York Times" for 22 years, began the presentation with a reminder that fake news is not a new phenomenon. However, what is new, is the access to information people have from the internet and smart phones, which when combined with the ease of sharing articles on social media, has greatly increased the ability to share information quickly, and often, without it necessarily being vetted for accuracy.

With this change in how news is created and disseminated, responsibility for determining what is credible information has shifted way from news publications, and onto the reader, said DePalma.

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So what is the best defense against the spread of fake news? The reader. As DePalma explained, each reader must follow the "Four Ds" - doubt, detect, discern, demand - to decide for themselves what is real and what is fake. DePalma encouraged the audience, to "think like a journalist."

With legitimate news sources competing against fake news sites, which write misleading headlines for the sole purpose of getting website traffic, it is up to the reader to take an active role in determining if what they are reading is real news, or fake news, said DePalma.

DePalma drew the distinction between fake news, which purposely intends to mislead the reader and refuses to correct false information, with mistakes, which legitimate publications will do their best to quickly correct.

Citing a headline in "The New York Times" from 1957 that incorrectly wrote that Fidel Castro was dead, DePalma said that when he wrote Fidel Castro's obituary many years later, he "knew it would be the second time 'The New York Times' declared Castro dead."

When discerning what is real and what it fake, DePalma stated that the reader has to be careful to consider their own point of view, noting "news I don't like doesn't make it fake news."Fake news sites often have names that resemble legitimate sources, so one of the first things a reader should do is look at the source closely, though this can be difficult as fake news site will mimic the look an feel of the real news site, and will sometimes have a URL that is very similar to that of the real news site. DePalma shared a list of fake news sites, (which can be found here), as well as two sites, Politico.com and FactCheck.org, which he referenced as good sources for determining the accuracy of news articles.

Fake news has a major impact on public opinion, which affects politics and public policy, said DePalma, "fake news has real consequences."

"The truth is not dead," said DePalma. "People are trying to trample it, but it is not dead."

For more information about Anthony DePalma, visit his website here.

DePalma's presentation is part of the ongoing lecture series at the Millburn Library, which is coordinated by South Orange resident Liz Miller-Boose.

On Tuesday, May 2, Maplewood authors Suzanne Riss and Jill Sockwell, will be at the Millburn Library to discuss their best-selling book, "The Optimist's Guide to Divorce." More information about the event here.

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