Ethics of fake news focus of panel discussion

As "fake news" and social media have been a heightened topic of discussion recently among the public and national daily news, WMU-Cooley Law School and the Michigan Capital Chapter, American Society for Public Administration hosted the panel discussion, "Social Media: The Ethics of Fake News," on March 22.

WMU-Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc presented opening remarks for the panel discussion and introduced Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency senior policy advisor Meegan Holland, who moderated the conversation. Panelists included Martha Moore, WMU-Cooley professor and auxiliary dean; Emily Lawler, MLive Capitol reporter; and John Lindstrom, publisher of Gongwer News Service. Moore kicked off the discussion with comments about truth and news in a fast-paced, technology-driven world.

"These are the best of times in this information age where inquiring minds want to know everything right now-real-time news as it is happening. Information is readily available and instantly available," Moore said. "These are also the worst of times because information is instantly available, but a lot of it is untrue."

Moore said the term "fake news" is troubling because in her opinion it legitimizes what is not news, and leads to public distrust. Lindstrom spoke of the challenge of verifying information before it spreads like wildfire on the internet and the history of "fake news," citing a reference to Nazi Germany.

"Fake news is not new in any sense. It is a long, historical pattern. It's been used deliberately to incite people to do various things," Lindstrom said. "What has changed in the aspect of fake news largely is the question of technology, which has driven the ability to spread untrue things far faster than anyone can get ahold of them and correct them."

Lawler emphasized the process of reporting and how the way a journalist approaches a story makes a difference in their coverage.

"I think the best journalism that's produced starts with an open-ended question and looks for an honest answer," Lawler said. "If you're starting with an answer, you're going about it the wrong way."

Published: Wed, Apr 19, 2017