Janet Wu, Tom Ashbrook, and Katherine Kingsbury discussing the era of "Fake News" at Emerson College. Photo courtesy: Jenna Lennon

International, national, and local leaders in journalism gathered to discuss the changing relationship between the media and the government at the “Fake News and Alternative Facts” keynote panel held at Emerson College’s Paramount Center on March 29.

Janet Wu, former news anchor and reporter for WHDH Boston and WCBS, moderated the panel in discussing the media’s role in preserving democracy during the Trump era.

“One year ago, the terms ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ did not exist in our lexicon as they do today. This all was given rise during the election, and we now know false information promoted as real news was used to influence the election,” Wu said.

Wu placed blame on the current administration, questioning the partisan divide, referencing the imagined, ‘Bowling Green massacre’, a fictitious event that Trump’s advisor, Kellyanne Conway, cited as one of the reasons for the immigration ban.

“Hillary Clinton was never found to have Parkinson’s Disease or ties to a human trafficking ring operating out of a pizza shop. President Trump was not diagnosed with a brain tumor discovered by a colonoscopy,” Wu continued.

“We believe these things because this is information, stories that were written and spread by people and websites that admittedly produce fake news. And it’s not just what we are reading on the internet. Since the inauguration, White House officials have referenced imagined massacres and numbers and information that cannot be verified.”

One of the issues with the current political climate is the “wall to wall” divide ideologically between parties referenced by Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR’s “On Point.”

“These days, people look at information, they look at the news, whether they accept it or they don’t, what they’re open to, what they’re not open to, creates a very strange environment for someone like me who’s everyday putting out, I hope, facts and listening to the response from callers of the radio,” Ashbrook continued. “They come from such diverse books, and they’re not necessarily open at all to the view of the other.”

But, despite the president’s claims of disinformation in the media in order to hurt his reputation, “the media is not the opposition to the president,” said Katherine Kingsbury, Director of Digital Content for The Boston Globe, while adding, “we have to give the president a fair shot”

Kingsbury continued discussing the policy of The Boston Globe regarding President Trump saying, “we are going to be tough on this president, we are going to be fair with this president, and we are going to be relentless in our reporting. We will treat this administration the way we would treat any administration which is to tell essential truths and hold the powerful accountable.”

Peter Casey, Director of News Programming for CBS Radio and WBZ Boston added, “the challenge on the audience to be a better consumer of news.”

Casey went on by saying, “do as much research as you would for a war and to research a restaurant [by going to] Yelp. I would do as much research on the news organization that you are going to use for your information and vet them before you believe everything you read.”

But Steve Adler, President and Editor-in-Chief at Reuters, is optimistic about the future of journalism and the future journalists who will be taking his place.

Adler discussed his view on the growth of ‘fake news’ expressing, “the notion that everyone is interested in fake news and no one is interested in real news I just think isn’t true. There are hundreds of millions of people around the world that are, every day, trying to find out what is really going on.”

“Fake News and Alternative Facts” brought up issues of journalism ethics, responsibility, and educating student journalists in a democratic society. This panel is just one of the many recent events aimed at bridging the gap between students and leaders in their chosen industries.

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