When Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake announced he would not seek re-election, potential replacements scrambled to line up outside the elections office. Among those aspiring to a prestigious seat in the U.S. Senate was Kelli Ward, a hard-right Republican and staunch supporter of President Trump.
Several other prominent Republicans tossed their hats into the ring as well, including former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose conviction for criminal activities would have sent him to prison, if not for President Trump’s quick pardon for his pal.
The race to replace Flake shows promise of being a real bruiser, and Ward believed she had a nice polling boost when she announced having received an endorsement and full backing of the prestigious Arizona Monitor news organization.
The problem is, there is no such news organization. In fact, a cursory examination of the facts reveals the Arizona Monitor is not a real news site, but instead an anonymous, pro-Kelli Ward blog. Its online domain has been duly registered, but the identity of its owner is blocked.
There you have a textbook demonstration of fake news, which Wikipedia describes as “a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation” that can eventually seep into legitimate mainstream news outlets.
Americans had mostly never heard of fake news until it became presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign mantra. These days fake news seems to be everywhere. And it’s a talent Russian hackers apparently have been displaying without restraint, at least as it pertains to meddling in U.S. elections.
We say fake news "seems to be" everywhere — and we hope that's fully addressed Tuesday afternoon, beginning at 1 p.m. in Hancock College's Marian Theatre.
The title of the program is “Media Literacy: Recognizing Fake News and What To Do About It.” Sponsors include the local League of Women Voters, Allan Hancock College, the Fund for Santa Barbara and this newspaper.
Participating panelists include Hugo Morales, founder of Radio Bilingüe; Jerry Roberts, founder of Newsmakers and calbuzz.com; Santa Maria Times Managing Editor Marga Cooley; Hancock College English Professor Kate Adams; and Hancock College Faculty librarian and Assistant Professor Kellye Cohn — folks who know a thing or two about news and the media.
The panel’s assignment for the forum is daunting — discussing how to tell the difference between misleading information, which has been renamed fake news, and fact-based news. It will also look at long-term solutions for protecting our democracy, which includes the process of finding nuggets of truth in media reporting.
The core question we hope to have answered at Tuesday’s session is, how can one separate fact from fiction, real news vs. the fake variety?
Sometimes it’s fairly simple, especially when the news being reported is too outlandish to believe. Other times, finding the nugget is more difficult, as is the case when something marginally true is blended with something that is marginally false.
One thing is certain about the fake-news phenomenon — it is shining a spotlight on legitimate news agencies which work hard to get to the truth. For us newspaper folks, it’s a matter of vetting, revetting and vetting a third time. Checking facts for their validity has always been a basic procedure of print media, but that process has taken on greater significance since the era of fake news blossomed.
Please join us Tuesday afternoon, listen to what the panelists have to say, and be with us on the journey toward a more honest and truthful future.