IU Bloomington Hot Topics event to address fake news, 'sleuthing the truth'

  • Feb. 2, 2017


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The "Pants on Fire" meter on the PolitiFact website has been running hot lately, tackling phony stories and tweets with headlines such as “Meryl Streep just got fired from a major project for lying about Trump” (didn’t happen), “Tillerson won’t divest from Exxon” (he did) and “Obama orders life-sized bronze statue of himself to be permanently installed in White House” (nope).

To help the Indiana University and Bloomington communities become more conscious consumers of news, the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President is hosting an interactive workshop titled "Fake or Fact? The Search for Real News in 2017" at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, in Presidents Hall within Franklin Hall as part of the office’s Hot Topics series.

The event is open to the public, and participants are Caryn Baird, senior news researcher for the Tampa Bay Times and its PolitiFact project; Roger Cohen, New York Times columnist, author and the inaugural Indiana University Poynter Chair; and Filippo Menczer, IU Bloomington professor of informatics and computer science and co-coordinator of Hoaxy, a tool to visualize the spread via social media of fake and misleading news stories.

The session comes at a time when Americans continue to debate the trustworthiness of media and the role that bogus or biased news stories played in the 2016 elections.

“We have a responsibility as a public university to teach our students to be discerning, critical consumers of media in all forms,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel. “The surge of fake news stories makes this responsibility more pressing than ever. This Hot Topics session offers a wonderful opportunity to provide our students with tools to take on this crucial issue.”

The program will feature a workshop titled "Sleuthing the Truth: Verification Using Public Records Resources," led by Baird. In her role as a news researcher at the Tampa Bay Times, Baird has research credit on five Pulitzer Prizes and several other award-winning stories. Working alongside reporters and editors for more than 18 years, she has helped to nail down facts, find experts to quote, provide historical context and locate cell phone numbers.

Moderators will be Elaine Monaghan, professor of practice in The Media School and head of the IU Poynter Center board, and Tom French, the Riley Endowed Chair in Journalism and professor of practice in The Media School.

Those who attend are encouraged to bring a laptop, smartphone or other personal digital device and be prepared to participate. Presidents Hall will be set up with round tables to facilitate small-group discussion and interaction.

Robel will introduce the program, followed by comments by Menczer and Cohen. Then Baird will lead a workshop, assisted by discussion moderators, in which she will share media resources and guide students through exercises in evaluating the reliability of stories.

A question-and-answer and discussion period will conclude the program.

In a separate public event also on Feb. 9, Cohen will participate in a discussion of media issues from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. in the Franklin Hall atrium. The discussion, "Sinking in a Swamp of News, Lies and Social Media?" will also include panelists Hannah Alani, editor of the Indiana Daily Student, and Anne Kibbler, communications director for The Media School.

Robel announced the Hot Topics series in her February 2016 State of the Campus address. The series brings the campus's best minds and teachers together to engage with students on urgent issues. Previous discussions have focused on the Black Lives Matter movement and policing; immigration, identity and inclusion; and voting and power.

Related Links

Caryn Baird

Caryn Baird | Photo by Tampa Bay Times

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Filippo Menczer

Filippo Menczer

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Media Contacts

Jennifer Piurek

  • Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President
  • Office 812-856-4886
  • jpiurek@iu.edu