Panelist Chris Blakey speaks about truth and the main-stream at an open forum entitled "Fake News" which was sponsored by The Institute of Ethics, Law and Public Policy and held at College of the Canyons Valencia Campus on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal
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“Fake News,” one of the latest buzzwords in the U.S. political sphere, was deliberated and evaluated by professors and students at College of the Canyons (COC) Wednesday.

The Fake News Forum, presented by COC’s Institute of Ethics, Law and Public Policy, consisted of four speakers and a Q&A session to tackle various topics surrounding truth seeking, the freedom of the press, news consumption and political culture.

“This is an issue about democracy and freedom of speech, and we want to look at fake news and how that works with our political system without really taking partisan views,” said forum moderator Kevin Anthony, director of the Institute and COC’s Hotel and Restaurant Management department chair.

Chris Blakey, a COC philosophy professor, defined fake news as known sites or groups of people who are posting made up news stories to make a profit; however, the phrase “fake news,” in reference to mainstream media, is different.

Panalists Lisa Hooper, left, and David Andrus speak at an open forum On “FAKE NEWS” which was sponsored by The Institute of Ethics, Law and Public Policy and held at College of the Canyons Valencia Campus on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

“The phrase ‘fake news’ is used regularly by President Trump and the administration to refer to mainstream, quite legitimate news sources, but always about things they don’t like or that is a criticism of the administration,” he said.

This difference between made up news stories and calling legitimate news stories fake has caused confusion among the public, Blakey said.

It has also made the public reevaluate the ethics and values of seeking the truth in what some believe is a post-truth society, where objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal beliefs.

“Truth matters in current affairs, we can find it and it’s worth finding,” Blakey said.  “Truth is independent of what you or I want, prefer or like.”

David Andrus, COC’s political science department chair, said that truth is essential to democracy and political culture.

“If every objective truth is to be argued and challenged by a society primarily for political reasons, then how can that society function and co-exist?” he said.  “I don’t think it can over time.”

Andrus said that this constant challenge to the United States’ political culture, or shared values and beliefs, is turning objective observations of the truth into partisan issues.

“When anyone talks about shared values and beliefs today, it gets morphed into politics,” he said.  “Try to depersonalize your conversation.  Ask each other… ‘What is it you think you have in common with people despite your political differences?’  And I think we’ll realize we have more in common than we think.”

Panelist Majid Mosleh speaks about the Founding Fathers and the need for a free press during an open forum entitled “Fake News” which was sponsored by The Institute of Ethics, Law and Public Policy and held at College of the Canyons Valencia Campus on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Majid Mosleh, a COC political science professor and career advisor, said that in order to promote democracy and seek truth, many turn to the mass media of communications.

Citing quotes from the nation’s Founding Fathers, Mosleh noted that freedom of speech and freedom of the press is a fundamental element of the Bill of Rights and Constitution.

“A free and fully functional democracy depends on a free flow of information,” he said.  “Democracy will not function in the absence of an independent media.”

The press, Mosleh said, has several key functions including facilitating political socialization, holding government accountable, publicizing issues that need attention, educating citizens to make informed decisions and setting the agenda for public discussions.

Professor Kevin Anthony take question cards from the audience during a question and answer period during an open forum entitled “Fake News” which was sponsored by The Institute of Ethics, Law and Public Policy and held at College of the Canyons Valencia Campus on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Lisa Hooper, a COC kinesiology professor, said it is the public’s responsibility to think about how they consume mainstream media and evaluate credible sources when seeking out and stumbling upon the news.

According to Hooper, individuals should look to be informed, rather than entertained or persuaded by news sources in order to receive factual information.

“If you’re truly looking to inform yourself, you really need to be thinking about these aspects of the news pieces that you’re consuming,” she said.  “Is it intending to inform you?  And if it is intending to inform you, it probably doesn’t need to be so entertaining or persuasive.”

ccox@signalscv.com
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Christina Cox
Christina Cox is a multimedia journalist covering education, community and breaking news in the Santa Clarita Valley. She joined The Signal as a staff writer in August 2016.
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  • Ron Bischof

    “Chris Blakey, a COC philosophy professor, defined fake news as known sites or groups of people who are posting made up news stories to make a profit; however, the phrase “fake news,” in reference to mainstream media, is different.”

    Different? Mainstream media doesn’t sensationalize and derive revenue from viewers/subscriptions/clicks?

    Submitted for your review, this:

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/reporters-trip-all-over-themselves-botching-an-olympians-story-about-being-detained/article/2614645#.WKHv8xTQGN0.facebook

    • charles maurice detallyrand

      Maybe a working definition of “fake news” would be useful Ron, lol.

      • Ron Bischof

        You’re still begging for one?

        Tell me, what’s your opinion of the quality of the reporting in the link I provided? Weren’t some of them “mainstream media”, as the professor stated? Is it the source or the quality of the content that matters?

        • charles maurice detallyrand

          I’ve read the article. I’ll get to a review as soon as I can. And of course content matters most. The truth of course always matters the most but it isn’t such a simple thing when considering how we process new information. We are skeptical of untrustworthy sources no matter the information they provide, and for good cause. We also do so when trustworthy sources provide us with information which doesn’t fit within our cohesive view of reality. .

          People are contradictory beings. Sometimes that’s necessary, sometimes being a little “crazy” is actually helpful and useful, but I think it’s best to strive for consistency in politics. What’s my view on the quality of the articles mentioned in the link you provided? Are you looking more for a review of the article itself or the ones to which it refers (at least one of their links didn’t work)?

          • Ron Bischof

            Specifically, the curious failure of mainstream media organizations to ask one of the 5 Ws.

  • Kevin Kistler

    I wish I could have attended. Kudos to you for raising awareness.

  • lois eisenberg

    “Fake news” and” alternative news” are going to this destroy this country !!