CENTRAL SQUARE – Students and parents hear it every day: claims from an individual or group about the scourge of “Fake News”.
But what exactly does that mean? And where did the term come from? How are families today, with so many avenues to consume information, supposed to discern the facts from the fiction?
It was with those questions in mind that the Central Square Middle School the eighth grade classes heard from Chris Baker, a seasoned veteran reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard, about the hard truths and difficult decisions encountered each day in the world of media and news.
“It’s getting harder and harder to tell what’s reputable and what’s nonsense,” said Baker, a Baldwinsville native who covers City Hall and Syracuse politics. “The media we use has changed but the way false information spreads really hasn’t changed that much.”
Baker took students through a crash-course in the history of “Fake News,” going back to 1835 when the New York Sun newspaper breathlessly reported a series entitled “Life Found On the Moon.”
“People couldn’t just go to Google to see if Dewey defeated Truman,” said Baker. “If the newspaper lands on your doorstep and it says, ‘Dewey Defeats Truman,’ that’s what people thought happened!”
The effects of the internet – from distribution and costs to law and regulation – have played a huge role in the proliferation of “Fake News”, Baker said. Authentic material taken out of context, imposter websites, or parody can all be misconstrued easily for the genuine article.
Baker also told students of some of the ways they can spot “Fake News” and keep it from spreading and described the editorial and research process necessary for “Real News” publications ascribe to.
Central Square educators said the presentation was invaluable for students as they grow up in a world where more media is available than ever before.
“We’re instilling skills to be lifelong learners,” said Library Media Specialist Angela Enigk. “We want them to be critical of the information they receive and consider the source.”