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Kate George

The Reality of Fake News

Posted by Kate George Employee Nov 29, 2016

Since the very beginning of the 2016 election, the media have been a key player. Donald Trump was able to use his star power and his active social media presence to breeze past his opponents and win the Republican nomination with very minimal advertising spending. He publicly fought with media personalities, such as Megyn Kelly, and entire news media companies, like the New York Times. Even now, as the President-elect, he continues to tweet his thoughts and feelings on a daily basis.


But as the election came and went, its relationship with the news media has, if anything, become more complex. In recent weeks, Internet news has been brought into the spotlight, and many people are questioning what impact “fake news” had on the outcome of the election. In a time when a quick Google search or a scroll through your Facebook newsfeed can return thousands of “news” stories, ranging in quality from extremely well researched and reputable, to utter lies, those who are not critical media consumers may take any “news” story that passes through their Facebook feed as fact, without verifying the validity of that particular story. A recent article in the New York Times explores how both Google and Facebook are looking into their algorithms and trying to weed this fake news out of their sites to ensure that only reputable news is being spread.


As the generation who is most heavily immersed in social media, but at the same time is less practiced at the art of determining a credible source from a bogus one, your undergraduate students may be even more susceptible to these fake news stories than their older counterparts. As your communication students study the news media, how can you guide them in the right direction? One instructor at Merrimack College has compiled a list of fake, misleading, clickbate-y and satirical news sources that has been shared many hundreds of times and can be a great starting point for a discussion.


Have you incorporated a more in-depth study of fake news into your classes since the election? What ideas do you have for helping students become more critical of their news sources?

Kate George

The Great Debate(s)

Posted by Kate George Employee Sep 29, 2016

Source: Joe Raedle/Pool via AP


With the presidential debate season officially underway after Monday evening’s event at Hofstra University, public speaking and debate are in the forefront of more and more mainstream conversations. Embracing the spirit of convergence, I sat and watched the debate unfold across three screens: the TV on which I watched the debate, my phone where my Facebook News Feed was overrun with opinions, articles, and memes of the event (Hillary’s sassy shoulder shake later inspired this amazing gif), and my computer where I followed the NPR fact checker.


Throughout the evening, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the ubiquity, not only of discussions of the event in general, but specifically of the conversation of the art of debate and of public speaking that surrounded it. What makes an individual “the winner” of the debate? Who decides the rules of public speaking in such a forum, and what happens when one of the participants throws all the rules out the window? What level of preparation can and should be expected of those given the chance to participate in such an important tradition?


In reading and participating in several such conversations, I couldn’t help but think what an amazing opportunity this series of debates will be for students studying public speaking this semester. They will see that public speaking is vitally important, not just as an assignment in a class they need to pass to graduate, but as a life skill that can help them succeed in school and beyond. They can analyze, in real time, modern public discourse, and have conversations with their friends about these events. They can predict, and later reflect upon, what effect these debates will have on the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. The possibilities are endless.


How are you incorporating the presidential debates in to your public speaking classes this semester?

Yesterday was a momentous day for the National Weather Service. On May 11, 2016, more than 146 years after it began communicating with the American people, the National Weather Service has officially stopped yelling at us. That’s right, you will now begin to receive your forecasts in sentence case rather than the antiquated all caps, or yelling case.


Raining Sideways.gif



So how did the convention of using capital letters for emphasis begin, and when did those same letters start getting such a bad rap? An article on the subject (and there are many; apparently the Internet has VERY strong feelings about the caps lock) suggests that the history of using uppercase letters dates all the way back to the Roman Empire, when pompous emperors used the proverbial caps lock to brag about their accomplishments through inscriptions on monuments. But not all capital letters have their roots in bragging, yelling, or otherwise unpleasant outlets of communication. Jump ahead a few millennia to the age of modern weather forecasting, as mentioned above, during which teleprinters revolutionized the transmission of weather reports. These teleprinters, which were basically a typewriter-telephone hybrid, were only capable of transmitting uppercase letters. Through the years, of course, technology has changed, but traditions kept the uppercase forecasts en vogue for the next half century or so.


Though particulars like letter case, punctuation, etc. had become fairly well regulated by publishers throughout the 20th century, the unregulated nature of the Internet added a deeper level of complexity to the conventions of writing. Additionally, while variations in font such as bold and italics can easily convey emphasis on a printed sheet, those styles can sometimes get lost on lower resolution screens. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, though, and Internet users explored solutions for their emphasizing needs. According to Internet user Dave Decot in 1984:


There seem to be some conventions developing in the use of various emphasizers. There are three kinds of emphasis in use, in order of popularity:

1) using CAPITAL LETTERS to make words look “louder”,

2) using *asterisks* to put sparklers around emphasized words, and

3) s p a c i n g words o u t, possibly accompanied by 1) or 2).


Of course, convention number 1 has stuck and has left the caps lock haters hating for decades.


So what is a modern society of digital savvy communicators to do to combat the tyranny of the caps lock? If you’re Google or IBM, you can just do away with the caps lock key entirely and pretend like it never existed. If you’re brave, like Sian S. Rathore  or Kashmir Hill, you can try your own caps lock experiment and see how long it takes the Internet to start arriving with the pitchforks. Just be careful not to lose your job over it like this healthcare worker from New Zealand. But if you’re like the rest of us, you’ll just keep on reading the Internet yelling, and try not to judge the caps lock users too harshly.

Campbell hed shot.jpgRichard Campbell, Professor and Chair of the Department of Media, Journalism and Film at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, is the author of Macmillan’s Media & Culture, Media Essentials, and Media in Society. He is also the author of “60 Minutes” and the News: A Mythology for Middle America (1991) and coauthor of Cracked Coverage: Television News, the Anti-Cocaine Crusade, and the Reagan Legacy (1994). Campbell has written for numerous publications, including Columbia Journalism Review, Journal of Communication, and Media Studies Journal, and he is on the editorial boards of Critical Studies in Mass Communication and Television Quarterly. He also serves on the board of directors for Cincinnati Public Radio. He holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University and has also taught at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Mount Mary College, the University of Michigan, and Middle Tennessee State University.


Q: What courses are you teaching this semester?  

RC: JRN 101 -- a team taught course writing/JRN history course with 75 students (and 10 undergraduate assistants)


Q: What has been your favorite course to teach?

RC: Honors section of Intro to Media -- with my textbook!


Q: What advice do you have for other instructors who teach this course?

RC: Let students lead the discussion on social media.  They know more than I do...and I learn a few things. They are also more critically perceptive about the pluses and minuses of Facebook and Twitter when they are in charge of the conversation.


Q: What are some of your research interests?

RC: Most recent article was about the rise of partisanship in the media and how it's driven by the economic interests of news outlets.


Q: If you could create (and teach) a brand new course for your department, what would it be?

RC: In partnership with Dept. of Statistics, we are developing a new course, News & Numbers, that will count as a quantitative literacy requirement in our college.


Q: What do you think is one of the biggest challenges students face now when they enter college? 

RC: Too many choices and too many distractions with social media.


Q: What motivates you to continue teaching? 

RC: Keeps me young...and I really like being around smart young people.


On a personal note...


Q. How do you take your coffee? 

RC: With a little cream.


Q. What newspaper(s) do you read? Print or digital?

RC: Mostly read in print -- get the NY Times daily and also Dayton Daily News. Occasionally read the Cincinnati Enquirer, although its small tabloid format (thanks, Gannett!) is a turnoff... and hard on my eyes.


Q: How do you spend your time when you're not teaching? 

RC: Reading, watching TV, playing golf, walking our dogs, visiting our 2-year old grandson in Ann Arbor.


Q: If you hadn't pursued a career in higher education, what career path do you think you would have chosen?

RC: I started out as a high school English teacher and coach (basketball and track) in Milwaukee but I wanted to be a TV critic for a newspaper.


Q. What’s your favorite TV show or movie of the year so far?

RC: TV -- Catastrophe, a smart comedy on Amazon; Movies -- a tie between Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Spotlight (which really gave good journalism a shot in the arm).


Q: What was the last book you read?

RC: Louise Penny's A Fatal Grace.


Q: What book has influenced you most?

RC: To Kill a Mockingbird when I was young; Walker Percy's The Last Gentleman when I was an undergrad; and Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as a grad student.


Q: When you sit down to listen to music, which artists or genres do you go to most?

RC: My Pandora rotation in the shuffle mode includes 50s rock and roll, Janice Joplin, The Band, Levon Helm, Fats Waller, Gene Krupa, Django Reinhardt, John Mellencamp, Simon & Garfunkel, Mumford & Sons, Adele, CCR, The Beatles, and the Rolling Stones, among others.  


Q: Where is one place you want to travel to, but have never been?

RC: Scotland


Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

RC: Two things: that I once had the Fab Five all in the same class (of 400) at Michigan (and rightly predicted after that the downfall of U of M's men's basketball program)...and that I do a podcast called Stats+Stories with the dept. of statistics chair at Miami.