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Fake News: Is it Real?

How do we determine what news is “Real”—and what news is “Fake”?

Where do we turn today for news that we can trust? How is technology changing the way we consume information? In 2018, Connecticut Humanities conducted a year-long exploration about why people are becoming increasingly distrustful of the news media—and how we could all become more confident consumers of information.

About the Program

Journalism is critical to a healthy democracy. For citizens to make informed decisions they need reliable news and information. Journalism plays an integral role in this process by improving knowledge, helping build consensus, and holding government officials accountable. But is traditional journalism still relevant in today’s era of “Fake News”?

In 2018, Connecticut Humanities (CTH) facilitated a statewide exploration about why people are distrustful of news, how technology is changing information consumption, and how citizens can better evaluate news sources. The aim was to engage and inform Connecticut’s citizens about the essential role journalism plays in helping us understand our world.

The initiative included:

  • A moderated panel discussion with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists (view on YouTube and listen to the podcasts, Part I and Part II).
  • Interviews with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists and Connecticut citizens conducted and recorded by students from Capital Community College and Middlesex Community College  (view on YouTube).
  • Discussion and workshop sessions for teachers at the 2018 Northeast Regional Conference for the Social Studies.
  • Small project grants to encourage Connecticut cultural organizations to continue the discussion in their own communities (see more information on grants below).

Thanks & Appreciation

Connecticut Humanities thanks Capital Community CollegeMiddlesex Community College, and the Connecticut State Department of Education for partnering with us on this important project.

This program was part of the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The initiative seeks to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vital connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism, and an informed citizenry.

We thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this initiative and the Pulitzer Prizes for their partnership.

Grants

Fake News: Is It Real? Quick Grants were small implementation grants for projects that examined the issue of fake news, either currently or historically, and contextualized its lasting impact on our state.

These grants were used to support community-oriented programs that explored the issue of fake news at these organizations:

Connecticut Historical Society
CHS hosted a lecture by Professor Robert W. T. Martin of Hamilton College on December 10, 2018. Dr. Martin, who has written extensively on the role of newspapers in the Early American Republic, discussed Alexander Hamilton’s relationship with the press to shed light on how the founding generation grappled with the problem of “fake news.”

Connecticut’s Old State House (Connecticut Public Affairs Network)
OSH received funding for a special, two-hour Conversation at Noon entitled: “Navigating the News: Past & Present.” The program focused on the antecedents of “fake news” with a panel of experts: Dr. Barry O’Connell from Amherst College, Adam Chiara from the University of Hartford, and Richard Hanley from Quinnipiac University. After each spoke, journalist Diane Smith moderated a lively panel discussion between the speakers and the audience. You can watch a video of the event here.

Fairfield Museum
Fairfield Museum used its grant funding for a series of programs designed for educators, high school students, and the general public. The museum hosted several professional development workshops for teachers where they learned how to use curriculum from Connecticut Public Media and Newseum educators. Programs for the public covered how to be a savvy media consumer, digital citizenship, and “The media and mid-term elections.”

New Haven Public Library
NHPL presented “Fake News Month” in October 2018, with programs and films offered at several of their branches. They hosted four evening events, including a popular panel discussion entitled “Fake News Is Not New! The Historical View,” and a film screening of “The Brainwashing of My Dad” followed by a Q&A with director Jen Senko. In addition, the library created resources on how to identify and combat fake news to hand out to patrons.

Prospect Library
The Prospect Library hosted a conversation on fake news with Dr. Paul Levinson of Fordham University and Larry Rifkin, former chief programming officer for Connecticut Public Television. Both answered questions from the audience. Listen to a podcast recording of the event here.

Resources

CTH and its project partners have compiled a list of resources helpful for anyone who wants to learn how to identify fake news or review the issue in more depth. The list also includes curriculum links for interested teachers.

What Can You Do About Fake News? Here are some steps and resources to get you started.

Learn to recognize it:

Don’t share without verifying:

When in doubt, check it out:

Get your information from more than one source:

Support your local paper & demand local news from it.

Accept that you are part of the problem (It’s okay – we all are.)

Inoculate yourself:

If you see something, say something:

  • Report fake news to the social media platform hosting it.
  • Let your friends know if they are sharing fake news.

Teach your children well (more resources for educators):

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