PTK hosts roundtable discussion on media literacy and fake news

PTK discussion group
discution group

Do you believe everything you read on the Internet? Do know how to spot fake news? Do you take time to fact-check the content you read by considering these five key areas: who, what, when, where and why?  Because of the large volume of information available on the Internet, it is becoming more and more critical for readers to become their own critical media researchers as well.

In an effort to raise awareness and educate others on the popular topic of fake news, the St. Augustine campus Phi Theta Kappa honor society recently hosted an educational forum focusing on media literacy, misinformation and fake news. Vice President for Academic Affairs and St. Augustine Campus Executive Director Melanie Brown served as a panelist, along with professors James Maggio, Matthew Giddings and Longin Kaczmarsky, as well as campus librarian Royce Bass.  Professor Mark Little served as the moderator. The panel of faculty and staff engaged the audience with a rich discussion on the subject of knowing -- really knowing – how to uncover the difference between fake news and real news.

PTK President Jaime Grace Cross said, “For the international conference, we have to do a project that impacts all of society. We have several different themes to pick from, and for this one, we decided to do ‘Myth versus Reality.’ We had to think about what topic fit into that, and we know that fake news/misinformation does have a big impact on society. We wanted to have a discussion about how this news spreads and how we can educate people about it.”

SJR State sophomore Taylor Buckles said that her anatomy and physiology instructor, James McCaughern-Carucci, encouraged his students to attend the event to learn the difference between fake and real news. “You always see things on Facebook, and you never know if they’re real or not. So it will be nice to know the difference,” said Buckles.

In a student survey conducted prior to the event, 80 percent of students said that Facebook is the social media platform they use most regularly. Seventy percent said they use social media as a source of news and information, and almost 70 percent said they also share news and informational articles on social media. A little over 50 percent said they fact-check their information via Google, while close to 30 percent said they do not fact-check at all. The remaining percentage reported using other resources for fact-checking, such as, and – the sites suggested for fact-checking at the forum. “There are all of these different sites that people think are reliable for fact-checking and, in reality, they may not be,” said Cross.

During the discussion, Brown said that it is the changing definitions of fake news that we’re dealing with today. “The phrase now is ‘fake news,’ but we had different terms for it as you look back through history, and we had different ways of covering it. It’s not a new thing; it’s a new term,” she said. “It’s being covered in a new way, because our technologies are new. And we’re addressing it in a new way. Through history, you see how we define things… We look at practical jokes, we look at a literary hoax, we look at fiction. We look at how we define things. And when does fiction and a literary hoax become a lie? When does it become fake news?”

The panelists delved deeply into the content, and Cross was pleased with the quality of the discussion. Thanks to the topic being tackled on campus, she said, “We’ve now gotten a really good narrative started. We were able to get people thinking and gave them ways to put that thinking into action. That way, they know not to easily fall for some of the misinformation out there. They can research for themselves, rather than just relying on what someone else has told them.”

On a “Know Your News” handout distributed to those in attendance, tips from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions on “how to spot fake news” were provided:

Consider the Source: Click away from the story to investigate the site, its mission and its contact info.
Read Beyond: Headlines can be outrageous in an effort to get clicks. What’s the whole story?
Check the Author: Do a quick search on the author. Are they credible? Are they real?
Supporting Sources: Click on those links. Determine if the information given actually supports the story.
Check the Date: Reposting old news stories doesn’t mean they’re relevant to current events.
It is a Joke?: If it is too outlandish, it might be satire. Research the site and author to be sure.
Check your Biases: Consider if your own belies could affect your judgement.
Ask the Experts: Ask a librarian, or consult a fact-checking site.

Advisor Kim Hakala applauded the PTK members for successfully carrying out the organization’s Honors in Action mission, which is to “recognize and encourage scholarship in a lively exchange of ideas and develop leaders who serve their communities.” From the planning of the event to the live time of it, Hakala had no doubt the St. Augustine PTK honor society successfully met that two-fold mission. “Scholarship, leadership and service were evident, and that is what Phi Theta Kappa is all about,” said Hakala.

The St. Augustine campus Phi Theta Kappa honor society recently hosted an educational forum focusing on media literacy, misinformation and fake news. SJR State faculty and staff, front row, served as panelists for the discussion.



Susan Kessler
Director of Public Relations and Publications
(386) 312-4020