Grady College alumni and faculty led an international discussion on fake news at a workshop in Bucharest, Romania, in early October.
Alina Bargaoanu, dean of the College of Communication and Public Relations of the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, Bucharest, Romania, said that fake news is a proxy, albeit popular term for the larger phenomenon of disinformation 2.0 that refers to machine-driven, technology-powered disinformation.
“It is qualitatively different from traditional, people-driven disinformation carried out through traditional media,” Bargaoanu told the forty participants in the two-day program in early October. “What we are witnessing right now is a new arms race, a proliferation of technology-powered disinformation, a phenomenon for which intellectual, regulatory and research tools have only recently started to emerge.”
The Fake News and Information Disorders in the Digital Age workshop was the ninth consecutive annual event organized in Bucharest by the College of Communication and Public Relations at the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration and by the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia. The Cox International Center is an international outreach unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Charles Davis, dean of Grady College, said that in today’s media environment, trust is the single most important element in fighting disinformation.
“The purveyors of falsehood are attacking the very tenets of sound journalism, making it more important than ever for us to include the public in what we do – and don’t do – to demonstrate sound journalistic practice in our newsrooms and to foster engagement with our readers and viewers,” Davis told the participating faculty, students and journalists in the room.
“The everyday work of fact-checkers across the EU shows how valuable such collaboration could be.” — Daniel Funke (ABJ ’17)
“Last week, 60-odd fact-checkers and onlookers gathered in Brussels for a conference aimed at promoting collaboration ahead of the 2019 European Parliament elections,” said Daniel Funke (ABJ ’17), fact-checking reporter for the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, and a graduate of Grady College. “The everyday work of fact-checkers across the EU shows how valuable such collaboration could be. False political claims and viral hoaxes get recycled across the continent with minor edits. Working together could get fact checks out faster and to a much larger audience.”
Tudor Vlad, director of the Cox International Center, said that the concept of fake news has been used in recent years by leaders of emerging democracies to avoid answering specific questions asked by journalists. “Rather than addressing legitimate questions related to lack of transparency in the governance, corruption or nepotism, these leaders have started blaming the media and accusing them of producing fake news. This is very dangerous and it has the potential to create confusion among citizens and to lower their trust in the free press.”
In response to what Vlad said, David Hazinski, professor emeritus of journalism and president of Intelligent Media Consultants, argued that media have their share of responsibility for the current situation.
“To be honest, I don’t think the people I met are yet willing to look at themselves as part of the problem,” Hazinski said. “Media often represents the interests of government or oligarchs and is thus easy to attack, or adheres to traditional communications methods like emailed policy statements and minister interviews instead of video storytelling and social media. Fake news may never go away, but we have to create yardsticks that allow audiences to gauge the validity of information, which means taking a look at how we operate as well as the trolls.”
Remus Pricopie, rector of the Romanian university, emphasized in the opening session that more than 25 workshops, conferences and faculty exchanges have been organized in ten years of partnership between the University of Georgia and the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, and 15 books and studies have been published as a result of the joint research.
October 24, 2018 Author:
Tudor Vlad, firstname.lastname@example.org