Truth and the News — Panel at Reagan Library examines the Media

By George Miller and Debra Tash

“No net bias in the news,” half of the public gets news from social media,  said keynote speaker

Duke Blackwood, Host/Director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, at Truth and the News Forum at Reagan Library, 5-6-17. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Pepperdine University partnered with the Ronald Reagan and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Presidential Libraries to present what was billed as a Media Literacy Forum: “Truth and the News.”  The event kicked off with snippets from Orson Wells’ 1938 Halloween broadcast of “War of the Worlds.”  Billed as the “most controversial broadcast” in history, it was fake news, if only for the fervor it caused, even though that was not the intention.  The newspapers of the times took this mega “practical joke” as an indication that radio proved to be an unreliable source for information.

The event consisted of an intro, keynote speech, panel, Q&A and sessions for educators afterward. Video was done on Facebook Live — you can watch most of it here: https://www.facebook.com/reaganlibrary/videos/1453567521373939/

Duke Blackwood, Director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Elizabeth Smith, who teaches journalism at Pepperdine as well as having started working in the field in 2000.  He mentioned that concern over truth in media peaked during the recent presidential election. But he said that fake news had always been a problem, citing some historical examples. He also labeled  the “Pizzagate” alleged child molestation ring in that catagory, along with misinformation about government agents destroying Indian tepees during last year’s pipeline protests. He said the truth was “ruthlessly attacked from all sides” during the Presidential campaign.

Dr. Smith spoke on “The Changing News Industry.”  She cited the attacks on Mainstream News outlets by the current administration. She then went on to discuss how the younger generation is  “digital naivest but not digitally literate.”  In other words, they mainly get their news from social media but they don’t discern whether that news in true or not.

Dr. Elizabeth Smith of Pepperdine, at Truth and the News Forum at Reagan Library, 5-6-17. Photo: Debra Tash/CitizensJournal.us

Dr. Smith noted that the industry is in decline. With half of all consumers getting their news from outlier sources, blogs, new media, the Mainstream has lost 14,000 jobs, a quarter of their workforce.  The public is being overwhelmed with information.  Quoting a Pew Center Report Smith said,”News comes at them from every which way.” In attempts to catch this fluid market more established, wealthier news-sites are funding newer outlets.

After the 2016 election blame started to be placed on Facebook for spreading “Fake News” which supposedly influenced the electorate.  At first the social media giant denied this accusation but has since reversed its position and is supposedly addressing the problem with a new “manifesto” which includes scrubbing fake accounts on its site run by AstroTurf groups and foreign governments. They also are working to eliminate comment spam and have a new “Townhall” app to connect users with their representatives. Google has it’s “Project Owl” to eliminate offensive and “problematic” content.  Google’s ‘Project Owl’ — a three-pronged attack on fake news & problematic content.

Dr. Smith concedes that every human being has a bias, that we filter information favorable to our own point of view. She also asserted that there is ” no net bias” in the news, although plenty of bias exists. This is in marked contrast to estimates/analyses we have read elsewhere, for example, that up to 93% of news coverage during Donald Trump’s campaign for President was negative towards the populist candidate.  

She also presented some numbers on how she said people get their news via social media:

– 50% of Facebook users get news from Facebook

– 20% from YouTube.com

– 17% from LinkedIn

– 50% from Twitter

– 30% from Google+

– 8% from Instagram

– 25% from Tumblr

– 67% from Reddit

She noted that  62% of Americans get their news from Social Media, contrasting with an earlier statement.

She played a clip where Donald Trump’s electoral success was attributed in part to his mastery of social media and over 14 million Twitter followers alone. In spite of some public misgivings about his unprecedented and to some, bizarre, Twitter presence, he still communicates directly with the public using Twitter as a work-around to what he sees as media interference with his messaging. 

Dr. Smith said that people who use social media such as Snapchat and Instagram tend to be more sophisticated. Smith noted a study (5000 people for 1 week recording their actions every 2 hrs.) that young  people (18-19) only remembered the source of their news 47% of the time, while older people (30-49) remembered it 57% of the time, and older Americans 61%. This could be significant for helping them to establish reliability of sources to be used in the future.

Smith recognized that technology and social media are influencing how news is being shaped and how readers perceive it.

She noted some key tech milestones:

– 1970’s- Compuserve

– 1980’s Electronic bulletin boards

– 1990- AOL

– 2002-4- Friendster, LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook (not public until 2006)

– 2006- Twitter

– 2009- Mobile phones (she must have meant smart phones).

Over half of CitizensJournal.us readers access us through mobile devices.

Smith noted the media disruption caused when AOL published Olympics results before they aired on TV. She stated that Social media is now part of reporters’ jobs, that the “Green Revolution” and Arab Spring were social media-driven.

She also stated that a Facebook whitepaper (found on FirstDraft News) on 7 types of mis/disinformation, which include satire or parody; misleading content; impostor content; fabricated content; false connection; false context and manipulated content.  She talked about false amplification, fake accounts, false groups, fake comments and more.

People cannot only generate fake, misleading or biased information, but can cause it to be more visible through numbers of searches, likes, comments. This will influence Google search suggestions and rankings.

She mentioned concerns about very offensive or dangerous content, such as executions, assaults, top secret information, etc.  The WikiLeaks revelations were only briefly touched upon by Smith and the panel.

What was not mentioned at  the forum was that Google and Facebook have both discussed retaining so-called fact-checking organizations, some of which have been challenged, to rate content and display ratings and use these to influence search rankings .

Panel (L-R): Conan Nolan, Dylan Byers , Chris Nichols, Dr. Theresa M. de los Santos & Matt Pearce. at Truth and the News Forum at Reagan Library, 5-6-17. Photo: Debra Tash/CitizensJournal.us

A panel was held afterward with Conan Nolan of NBC4 as the moderator, accompanied by:

Dylan Byers of CNN

Dr. Theresa M. de los Santos of Pepperdine,

Chris Nichols of Politifact California

Matt Pearce of the LA Times.

– Phat X. Chiem of StoryCraft was a no-show. He later told us that he had a schedule miscue. We have asked him for comments.

In his introduction of the panel, Mr. Blackwood noted that “strangely, some media outlets were reluctant to lead their talent to the event.”

Pearce, Los Angeles Times, admitted that there are a lot more outlets for the public to choose from and that it’s been difficult for the Times to adapt.  Nichols, PolitiFact stated they have to go back to traditional values for political discourse, to dig deeper with unbiased experts. Byers, CNN, claimed that the Republicans are exploiting and reinforcing a mistrust of the media.  They agreed that FOX News was created as a business plan back in 1996 when it was founded and that they “knew who their audience was.”  On the other hand MSNBC saw an opportunity when defining itself as a news outlet during the Bush era to come against the administration.

Pearce, Los Angeles Times, described how they are trying to define people they write about without using labels, like “illegal” or “undocumented”.  Dr. de los Santos, Pepperdine, termed this as “framing” on how language is used in any given story.

WikiTribune was discussed where paid journalists and volunteers would post and discuss news.  From the website which has yet to launch:  “A new kind of news platform. Wikitribune is a news platform that brings journalists and a community of volunteers together. We want to make sure that you read fact-based articles that have a real impact in both local and global events. And that stories can be easily verified and improved.”

Byers, CCN, did concede that during the 2016 election, while other candidates avoided the media interviews, Trump was always available and willing to do them, which afforded him an advantage.

Technology has changed the way we get our news, stay in touch, stay informed.  We may not be seated around a radio now listening to how Martians have landed in New Jersey, but we are listening and we are out there. 

There were over a hundred people in attendance, abd over 4000 saw it on FacebookLive.

Members of the public questioned the panel at Truth and the News Forum at Reagan Library, 5-6-17. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Cast of characters at Truth and the News Forum at Reagan Library, 5-6-17. Photo: Reagan Library

Forum Featuring:

PolitiFact California

Media/News Company · Sacramento, California

PolitiFact California is a partnership of Capital Public Radio and PolitiFact.com to help you find the truth in California politics.

Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum

Museum/Art Gallery · Austin, Texas

LBJ Presidential Library. 36th #POTUS. Lyndon B. Johnson. We are open seven days a week, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

About the Venue

Reagan Library

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Another useful link:

10 Basic Forms of Fake News Used by Major Media

10 Basic Forms of Fake News Used by Major Media

By Jon Rappoport- The basic purpose of these ten forms is the presentation of a false picture of reality. You could find more forms, or divide these ten into sub-categories. The ten basic forms are: *1- Direct lying about matters of fact. *2- Leaving out vital information. *3- Limited hangout. (This is an admission of […]

Also:

A panel on “Fake News” was done last week at CAPS/TV. It should be released in about a week to youtube and other outlets.


Debra Tash is Editor-in-Chief of Citizensjournal.us, past president for Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, business executive and award-winning author, residing in Somis.

George Miller is Publisher of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard


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David Puu

Excellent coverage!