Real News or Fake? How Do You Tell the Difference? (Hint: It Takes Work)

Chris Roberts, Ph.D and professor at the University of Alabama, started the BirminghamWatch Media Savvy event with a game of Real or Fake? (Source: Robert Carter)

Figuring out whether news is real or fake in today’s click-driven media landscape requires increased awareness and diligence by the public, experts concluded at a Thursday night Media Savvy forum, held in the Edge of Chaos room at UAB’s Lister Hill Library.

Media Savvy: Smart Choices in a Changing Information Age began and ended with “Real News or Fake News” games and featured discussion by audience members and presenters about how economics, technology and social media continue to change how Americans receive, understand and trust – or don’t trust – the news and the news media.

“Ten years ago, and it seems almost quaint now, the focus was on accuracy,” said Carol Nunnelley, veteran newspaper editor and executive director of the nonprofit Alabama Initiative for Independent Journalism and its public service reporting arm, BirminghamWatch. “Today’s media have to fight for attention. It’s hard to tell who is telling us what and for what purpose.”

BirminghamWatch, one of 100 nonprofit public service journalism organizations in the U.S., sponsored the Media Savvy event and one last week with grant support from Alabama Humanities Foundation.

Leading the forum was Chris Roberts, Ph.D, associate professor of journalism and creative media at the University of Alabama, with presenters Nunnelley and Virginia Martin, lead news editor of BirminghamWatch.

In a presentation that included graphs showing were national media outlets land on the political and accuracy spectrum, Roberts detailed ways for citizens to separate fact from fiction, including looking for attribution, a date on the story, a photo credit and a website and reporter that can be found and verified.

Reading news from sources you know and trust – and being aware of click-driven online posts – are also key for people who want to be informed, said Roberts.

It comes down to the reader being media savvy, said Martin.

“Learning the truth in this day and age takes a lot more work on our part.”