Author of “Fake News in Real Context” Paul Levinson held a lecture about his book on Tuesday at the Grand Rapids Community College Library.
Levinson, professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University in New York City. He began his talk by explaining how fake news involves the First Amendment.
“I seriously believe we are living in one of the most dangerous times for our democracy here in the United States,” Levinson said. “The reason is you have to go back to the beginning. There was a First Amendment that was adopted shortly after the constitution that created the government of our country. That First Amendment clearly says Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech or the press.”
Further into the discussion, Levinson expressed his concern about President Donald Trump and his approach to the media. After a news conference on Jan. 11, 2017 Trump opened the floor to take questions from the media and expressed disdain for one of the news reporters in particular – CNN Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.
“Trump had it in for CNN, in fact, he had it in for MSNBC, NBC and the New York Times,” Levinson said. “The reason as to why the amendment had such strict language and still has such strict language… was to make sure that the press was free to be as critical as it needed to be.
“In that one statement when Trump said to Jim Acosta ‘I am not answering your question. You’re fake news. CNN is fake news,’ Trump turned the tables and made our legitimate media subject to public ridicule, distrust and all the things undermine our confidence in our media.”
Although fake news has become more prominent over the past years, humans are subjects of error and sometimes make mistakes. Most often we apologize for such things to reestablish our credibility.
“One of the things I point out in my book which is very important… to keep in mind is that legitimate media are not error-free. That doesn’t exist in any media,” Levinson said. “This is why The New York Times at the bottom of its front page often has a little note that’s called erratum… this is just latin for error.”
One of the things Levinson added was how to identify fake news on to today’s web.
“Here is the single best way,” Levison said. “How many sites are reporting this? You know it seems like a very simple solution but usually even though fake news is virally disseminated and picked up on other sites. Usually, if there is a report about any piece of fake news it is easy enough to discover that it is not true if you Google it. It can be something that is in multiple places, but usually by checking you can find out the truth. And in the end, the best defense against fake news is a recognition that facts matter. Facts always matter.”
After his talk, Levinson thanked everyone for attending and went over to a table to sign copies of his book.
The discussion has been posted on the GRCCtv YoutTube for those who missed the lecture y. This event was made possible by GRCC Campus Common Reading Committee, Library and Learning Commons and the Dean’s Office for Instructional Support.
The next event in the library’s Fake News series will be a discussion panel featuring professional reporters from all over West Michigan on April 10.