Featured Guests:

  • Cindy Barth – Editor, Orlando Business Journal
  • Grant Heston – Chief of Staff and Vice President for Communications & Marketing, UCF
  • Rick Brunson – Associate Instructor, UCF Nicholson School of Communication & Media

Episode Transcription:


Paul Jarley:                         It makes you believe there’s no such thing as truth.

Grant Heston:                   There’s a lot of things labeled fake news that people just don’t like.

Paul Jarley:                         It’s a popular Halloween costume.

Rick Brunson:                    There are companies selling fake news costumes. You can dress up in a fake news … It’s plastered with newspaper pages and it has red fake across the front … Yeah. $54.95 online.

Paul Jarley:                         And combined with data analytics, it can be, well, clickalicious.

Cindy Barth:                       There are certain things that we know all we have to do is put these keywords in a headline, and we’re going to have what we call a clickalicious day because everybody in town is going to be going, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang on that story. We know that.

Rick Brunson:                    Where, oh where have you gone, Walter Cronkite?

Walter Cronkite:              That’s the way it is. Friday, March 6th 1981.

Paul Jarley:                         This show is all about separating hype from fundamental change. I’m Paul Jarley, Dean of the College of Business here at UCF. I’ve got lots of questions. To get answers, I’m talking to people with interesting insights into the future of business. Have you ever wondered, is this really a thing? Onto our show.

Paul Jarley:                         Let’s talk a little bit about how the world is changing in really broad strokes. When we were hunter gatherers and we started to plant crops, land was the most valuable thing and the people who were the richest and the most powerful owned the most land. And then machines were invented, and the Industrial Revolution happened and market economies occurred. In that, who owned the most machines became the most powerful people. Today, the most valuable asset is information. It’s data. And the most powerful people in the future are going to be the people who control the most data, and they can use that data either to help inform you or they can manipulate you with that data.

Paul Jarley:                         This gets us to the topic of fake news and whether fake news is really a thing or not. Is this something that 10 years from now we’ll kind of laugh about and move on from, or will it be a part of our daily lives? And if it is, how do we determine what’s fake from what’s real out there? That’s certainly something that my students need to know how to do, or we’re all doomed. So, I brought together a panel of experts to talk a little bit about fake news, what it is, and whether it’s really a thing or not. So I’m going to allow my guests to kind of introduce themselves. I’ll start with Grant.

Grant Heston:                   Sure. Thank you, Paul. I’m Grant Heston. I’m our Vice President for Communications in Marketing and Chief of Staff at the University of Central Florida. I got my undergraduate degree in journalism from a university about 90 minutes north of here, a little bit smaller than us. Football team is not quite as good. And so I live and breath with this every single day.

Cindy Barth:                       Hi, I’m Cindy Barth. I’m Editor of Orlando Business Journal. I am a UCF graduate. My degree is in journalism with a minor in political science.

Rick Brunson:                    Morning, everybody. My name is Rick Brunson and I’m an Associate Instructor of Journalism at the University of Central Florida where I’m also a proud alum. Got my degree there in 1984 and became a reporter and editor for the next 30 years and have been really privileged to return to the university where I learned about journalism and I teach it there now. Glad to be with you.

Paul Jarley:                         Thank you all for joining us this morning. Rick, since you’re the academic in the group and academics love definitions, let’s start there. What is fake news?

Rick Brunson:                    If you start with the word fake, it means counterfeit, which means there’s something real to judge it against. If you start from that point, then there’s hope because there is something real to judge it against. The thing about the term fake news, it’s become very elastic in the last couple of years. We used to think of fake news as that news or information that was intentionally falsified and based on untruths with the intent to deceive the public. Now that term has been elasticized in the American mindset to also encompass things such as editorial decision making that is crafted with the intent to deceive or mislead, and it’s also become politicized where fake news is the news that I don’t necessarily agree with. And so it’s a very mushy, mashed up … I did notice this morning that next week is Halloween, and there are companies selling fake news costumes. You can …

Paul Jarley:                         Then you know it’s a thing, right?

Rick Brunson:                    There you go. You can dress up in a fake news … It’s plastered with newspaper pages and it has red fake across the front. Yeah. $54.95 online, so, yeah. There you go.

Paul Jarley:                         Fake news is expensive. Cindy, would you agree on that definition? Do you have anything to add?

Cindy Barth:                       I would. I think the most dangerous thing is just that everyone has kind of their own definition of fake news sometimes, and for me in journalism, fake news would be something that is just completely not based on any fact at all. But for many people, as Rick shared, if they don’t agree with something that you write, all of a sudden it’s fake news. And it’s a very easy thing to just throw around nowadays because you hear it used so often. So to me, that’s a very alarming trend, is just how quickly we immediately turn to calling stuff fake news without really thinking it through.

Paul Jarley:                         Grant, where did fake news come from? Should we blame Facebook?

Grant Heston:                   Goodness gracious, you would ask me that question. I think fake news has been with us forever. It’s just the medium has changed right now and it seems easier to share and be duped by fake news than it was 100 years ago when you had newspapers and the beginnings of broad, really mass communications. But no. I think it’s been with us for a long time, and to your question to the start, I think it’s going to be with us into the future and that’s why understanding it, recognizing it, and coming up with ways to combat it is more important now than probably it’s ever been.

Paul Jarley:                         So what motivates it? What problem is it solving?

Cindy Barth:                       It’s basically reinforcing what you already believe in many cases. I think a lot of times I see things in people’s Facebook feed where they will post something and someone will immediately debunk it and say this is fake. Here’s the site. Go check this. But it still remains in their sight because it’s something that they’re already convinced in their mind that they believe and it’s correct, and so that’s the difficult thing. How do we get back to a point where we will be people who are curious enough to actually figure out is this real or not rather than just believing it right off the top of our head.

Paul Jarley:                         But is it fair to say that fake news is meant to provoke, that it’s meant to elicit an emotional reaction and perhaps a behavior that follows that? Is that where it comes from?

Grant Heston:                   I think it’s meant to influence. It’s meant to try to either reinforce your point of view, or often times just get you to give up. The truth is knowable. We can find the truth, and I often think the point of fake news is to try to blur those lines just to say, you know what? We’ll never know the truth about this, will we? And that’s a dangerous place to be.

Rick Brunson:                    In the last election cycle which we’ve now parsed and studied and there have been criminal indictments from the Criminal Justice Department in terms of Russian and other offshore troll companies and troll farms that deliberately put fake news stories in social media with the intent to disrupt our election process and to so discord among Americans so that we fight about hot red button issues like immigration and other things, and it’s meant to disrupt democracy, frankly, when it comes from offshore overseas, I think.

Paul Jarley:                         And data analytic techniques allow me to amplify that now, right, because I know what you click on and I can continue to feed you more of that to make it seem like it’s even more important and happening more often than you might otherwise think and reinforce what you think about that going forward.

Grant Heston:                   No. I agree. I think we are becoming very much creatures of our own bubbles, of our social media, of our own reading habits. I’ve heard Rick say this before. If you subscribe to the New York Times, that’s great. Subscribe to the Wall Street Journal too. If you watch CNN and MSNBC, tune into Fox News as well. Expand your world view, and maybe you won’t agree with everything, but you’ll get a different perspective. You’ll see how other people are being informed and that makes you better able to understand the world around you.

Paul Jarley:                         So has fake news influenced real news? I’m picking up on something Grant said there a minute ago. If you watch CNN and you watch Fox News, it’s hard to believe they live in the same world. Whatever your politics are, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just really hard, and I wonder if some of that is a reaction to what’s going on in social media and perhaps fake news, generally. What do you think, Cindy?

Cindy Barth:                       I think there has been a definite change, particularly in broadcast news. I remember when I was little growing up in the Walter Cronkite days, and Walter would just tell you the news and it was pretty much up to you to figure out what you thought about it. I’m sure he had very strong opinions on a lot of things, but at that point you didn’t express that as part of your news coverage. We blurred the lines a little bit over time where we’ve become a bit little out front sometimes with where we stand on issues, and I think that has created a little bit of the confusion as well. I don’t think that any news organization sets out to try to be influenced by it because we all have the same standards where we must report factually, we must present both sides, we must have all of that in our coverage, whatever it is that we’re writing or broadcasting. But I think it has made it a very interesting arena now for news.

Paul Jarley:                         Would you agree with that, Rick? What are you thinking?

Rick Brunson:                    I would, and I think it’s caused a lot of news organizations to look at their own editorial processes … Shore them up. The struggle has been to keep your eye on the ball as a journalist and try to stay true to your ethics and your values when we’re in an environment where you’re constantly attacked rhetorically and in some cases physically. I had an alum in my Monday night journalism class who just got back from covering hurricanes Michael and Florence. He works for the Associative Press. He’s a videographer. And while he was on a flooded public street up in North Carolina filming people as they were evacuating their homes in boats and loading their belongings and goods and their pets to get out of harm’s way, a man came up to him and screamed at him and said, you’re fake news. We don’t want you here. Knocked his camera over and punched the guy in the face. He showed us video of this.

Rick Brunson:                    What was interesting to me was that he did not include that incident in his reporting. I think I would have, but he didn’t. Instead he chose to focus on a North Carolina man who was using his own personal watercraft to get his 88 year old mother out of her house. Rhetoric has become incendiary and it can lead to real punches being thrown, so I’m concerned for some of my colleagues who are out there in the field who are under constant …

Rick Brunson:                    The barrage of, you’re the enemy of the people, you’re fake news. Most people are not going to act on that, but a small subset of people, like this man in North Carolina can, will and do. That’s not only an attack against the individual journalist, but I think that’s an attack against all of us who think that a free vigorous press is crucial and essential to a democracy.

Grant Heston:                   It’s the first amendment, right?

Rick Brunson:                    Exactly. For a reason.

Grant Heston:                   Okay, the first amendment. The very first one.

Paul Jarley:                         So I think when people think about fake news, they naturally go to politics, but I run a business school. Is there fake news in business, Cindy?

Cindy Barth:                       Of course there is!

Paul Jarley:                         What’s it like and what’s it’s purpose?

Cindy Barth:                       Well I think sometimes we find when we get news from companies and stuff sometimes, let’s say you’re a public company and you really had a core performance like here. So you want to highlight this instead. So you make sure that you’re highlighting this and you’re hoping that we’re not thorough enough to actually look at the entire report and see what you actually did over all. Sometimes it can be as simple as that.

Cindy Barth:                       Sometimes even it’s cases where the business can become the victim of fake news. Look what happened in 2016 with the Pepsi company when word linked out that they said, “Yeah, we don’t want any Trump support’s business.” Okay, the CEO never said that, somebody just manufactured that and then all of a sudden you have people protesting, boycotting, doing this kind of thing against a business that actually didn’t have any involvement in what was said. So I think it can work both sides of it.

Paul Jarley:                         How about in University settings, Grant? Is there fake news? Do you have to deal with fake news?

Grant Heston:                   I don’t know if I’d call it fake news. Again, I worked as a reporter, I have my undergraduate in journalism, so I have the utmost respect for it. I might call it more lazy news sometimes. Reporters will come and say, “hey’ we’re doing a story about XYZ, we need a quote from you about it.” And we’ll say, “Well, have you looked at this? Have you looked at this? Have you looked at … ” “Well, no, I just need a quote from you. Can you just give me a quote for this story that’s already written and done.”

Grant Heston:                   And so, that’s just more lazy and I think media companies are just in really tough times right now. I think that’s just a symptom of it. We probably deal more with lazy news than we do fake news, thankfully.

Paul Jarley:                         Even in college athletics, would you say that? So is Danny engaging in fake news right now in his campaign to get us into the college football playoffs?

Grant Heston:                   Paul I thought we were friends. There would be no athletics questions on this podcast. No I-

Paul Jarley:                         I’m still mad at Danny for called esports not a sport and they’re not athletes.

Grant Heston:                   No, I think that’s … We’re doing what organizations that are proud of their accomplishments do, which is say, “Look at what we’ve done. Look at the facts.” So if someone says, “Well you guys aren’t really scheduling power five teams.” Well, we played Stanford, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Pitt, Michigan, Ohio State, all within the last five years. Those are the facts. So let’s have a conversation based on the facts and based on outcomes and then see where that takes us, not the perceptions of institutions from 15, 20, 50, 100 years ago.

Paul Jarley:                         Wow. Just so you know, everything in our podcast eventually comes back to the UCF National Championship football team. That’s really why I [crosstalk 00:16:34].

Grant Heston:                   I like it, I like that for sure.

Paul Jarley:                         I try to get that into as many of the podcasts as I can… So if fake news is real, how do we combat it?

Cindy Barth:                       I think you have to get to the point where you want to make sure that you do your own investigation of things. I mean, there’s lots of places where you can check to see if something is real or not. You can check Politifact. You can check a lot of these types of sites where you can take a look, make sure that what you’re reading actually is factual. I think you also have to look to see, who else is reporting this?

Cindy Barth:                       Sometimes you’ll get something kind of in a vacuum that just suddenly appears out of nowhere. If nobody else is reporting it, that should be a red flag almost immediately.

Paul Jarley:                         Can I push back, just a little Cindy? I don’t think your strategy is wrong, but I’m going to actually go back to something Grant just said a minute ago. I’m lazy. You know what? I’ve got a ton of information. The last thing I need is more information. I might be short on meaning, but I’m not really short on information.

Cindy Barth:                       Yeah, and that’s why fake news is making such headway right now, because we won’t push back. People are lazy and won’t look at it. You can try to argue with folks and say, “Hey, let me point you to where you can actually find this.” And they still may chose not to actually do that.

Paul Jarley:                         Well, Rick, I hope our colleagues over at Nicholas’ school are thinking about this a little bit. You got a few things you want [crosstalk 00:18:05]?

Rick Brunson:                    Yeah, we think about it a lot. In my own classes, I teach my students about the different between skepticism and cynicism. Skepticism is intellectually rigorous. When you chose not to take something at face value, but then you take the next step to investigate it for yourself and check it out for yourself. You’re not being lazy.

Rick Brunson:                    Cynicism is lazy. Cynicism dismissed out of hand any information that’s being presented to you because you just automatically assume that the source that it’s coming from lies. So you don’t make any effort to investigate for yourself and your brain turns to mush. You’re a happy little cynic. You’re self satisfied because you think you know because you assume that things are not true because a person is lying. Right? That’s lazy. It doesn’t make for good citizens. Good citizens are skeptical, just like a good journalist should be skeptical, but not cynical.

Rick Brunson:                    I think to Grant’s point, where we get in trouble in journalism is when we let our skepticism turn into cynicism. Then when the story is already predetermined and you’re coming to Grant for a quote to fill in a gap because you already got the story in your mind because you already assume certain preconditions about things or people, that’s people a cynical journalist or a cynical reporter. That’s not healthy for democracy either. So good, rigorous skepticism.

Rick Brunson:                    I tell people, look for news organizations that have rigorous systems internally of authentication. The [Austric 00:26:03] Journal for one, I’m getting ready to leave here today, go back to the campus and I’ve got 25 students sitting down for the Dow Jones News Fund Exam for their national internship program. Dow Jones is the slowest notification on my feed. When something breaks, I hear from six other companies before I hear from the Wall Street Journal. They’re slower. I don’t care because they have six levels of fact checking and authentication before they put something out. Because they do that, I trust their information more than somebody whose headline is coming across my screen first.

Rick Brunson:                    Look for and support with real money, a subscription, or if it’s NPR and PBS a gift or donation, support sources of information that have good rigorous internal mechanisms of fact checking before they put information out. So that was my advertisement on that.

Paul Jarley:                         So I’m reading a book right now called 21 Rules for the 21st Century. There’s a chapter on fake news. I’m a big believe in simple rules. The simple rule that was offered there is that if you’re not paying for your media, you probably shouldn’t trust it. Is that fair?

Grant Heston:                   I think that’s very fair. I mean, journalism and reporting, it’s a profession. You go through training and you go through rigorous work. Just like if you were going to go to a doctor, you want to make sure they know what they’re doing, they practice it, they had recommendations, you should do the same thing for your news sources. Make sure you go to places that are trusted, that have processes like Rick said, in place, that can put up guards against fake news getting into the stream.

Paul Jarley:                         None of you mentioned regulation or legal action as a potential solution to the fake news problem. Why?

Rick Brunson:                    Well, it’s on the minds of certain Americans. IPSOS just did a poll where the good news was that 85% of Americans believe idealistically in the concept that a free press is essential to a democracy. So 85, that’s the good news. There’s a critical mass of people who still believe that a free press is important and crucial to a democracy. But 26% of Americans in that same poll said that the president should have the power and ability to shut down news organizations that “do bad things.” So, one in four american are ready to toss out the constitution to give the president the ability to shut down news organizations that do bad things whatever that means. There’s people ready to agree with changing libel laws and things like that to make it easier to shut down press organizations that they don’t like or think are doing harm to the country.

Paul Jarley:                         But you’d rather have the fake news out there than to give government the power to do that?

Rick Brunson:                    Absolutely.

Paul Jarley:                         [crosstalk 00:22:59] argument.

Rick Brunson:                    Absolutely.

Grant Heston:                   I think it’s an incredibly slippery slope and I think fake news, demonstrably false news is one thing but I think the point is that we’ve made so far this morning that there’s a lot of things labeled fake news that people just don’t like. You know, you’ll see somebody on a Monday say, “That media outlet, that’s fake news! That story’s fake news.” On Friday there’s a different story comes out, says, “Hey! Look how great I’m doing. You read it in such and such.” So it’s really content driven, not the fact that it’s unreliable source.

Cindy Barth:                       Many times, I think you’ll also see actual fake news sites, you’ll never see a correction on anything that they do.That’s going to be missing. But you know, if you’re a legitimate news organization, if you make an error, and yes, we all make errors from time to time, you correct it and you correct it in a very visible way so that everybody understands what the error was, what was corrected. Sometimes with the fake news stuff, it’s just out there, just kind of free floats forever and people continue to share it, but you’ll never see anything mentioned about anything be corrected in it.

Paul Jarley:                         So you think traditional news media has become more opinion driven and perhaps more polarized because of fake news? It’s so crowded out there, to stand out. I assume you were all taught that you wanted to report the news, not be the news. But I might make the contention today, if you aren’t the news, or if you aren’t the trusted source of news that are giving somebody a take, your future is probably not very bright in the business. Is that fair to put that on fake news?

Rick Brunson:                    I don’t know about fake news. I think opinion started creeping into the news columns before Donald Trump came along. It’s been leeching into the news columns for years. I don’t think that’s a good thing. I think people see it and they smell it. Among good smart, reasonable people that I converse with who are highly skeptical of journalism and the news business, that’s always the first thing that they mention, that they see and smell too much opinion in articles that are supposed to be straight news. I don’t think that’s … I think that’s bad for us going forward. We’ve got to find a way to …

Rick Brunson:                    But to your point, Paul, people also seem to want news with an edge, news with a voice, news that-

Paul Jarley:                         Or with meaning right? I get all kinds of information.

Rick Brunson:                    News organizations get conflicted about this because we get mixed messages from consumers about what they really want.

Paul Jarley:                         And you do [crosstalk 00:25:46] signals in fairness.

Rick Brunson:                    Yes, right.

Grant Heston:                   I think it’s too about what people want versus what they need. You know? I think maybe one of the things that have hurt media companies over the years has been being able to track page views. You need to report on what’s happening at city hall that may or may not get a lot of page views. It’s pretty easy to report on things that will attract page views. We all know what those types of stories are. Those are easier to do, they require less work, they require a less sophisticated, maybe an entry level person can do that as opposed to somebody that’s been there 25 years.

Grant Heston:                   I think that’s driven a lot of what we’ve seen as well. I guess, maybe I’d ask a question, if I could Paul-

Paul Jarley:                         Yeah, of course.

Grant Heston:                   -To Cindy and Rick. Do you think news organizations are passive sort of bystanders to this happening or are things happening that they’re contributing to this epidemic?

Cindy Barth:                       I think the whole introduction of being able to see in real time what’s actually happening with this story is really frightening sometimes because, I’ll be honest with you, there are certain things that we know, all we have to do is put these key words in a headline and we’re going to have what we call a “Clickalicious” day because everybody in town is going to be going, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang on that story. We know that.

Cindy Barth:                       So with that becomes the responsibility of, is this actually news that you should report or are you just trying to get clicks? It’s something that we measure every day, honestly. There are certain stories, as you say, you should report and you must report, because they’re important. People need to know that. Will they get the page views? The clicks? No, probably not but you still need to report it because people expect you to report it. So it is kind of a conundrum. If you’re not careful you can error one side or the other pretty quickly.

Rick Brunson:                    Yeah, a big part of this, and we’re in the college of business, a big part of this is that the business of news has been radically disrupted by digital. Radically disrupted. What you used to be able to count on in terms of revenue from subscriptions, it is gone. The advertising market has been chopped up. Lilly Tomlin used to say, “It’s not called ‘show art,’ it’s called ‘show business’.” Right?

Rick Brunson:                    It’s the same thing with the news. News companies are there to make money. And because the business model has been seriously disrupted, news companies are having to scramble to chase more eye balls on their content because that’s where the advertising dollars these days in digital come from. There is the temptation to spend more of your resources on things that maybe aren’t that important or substantive, but will generate traffic and it’s not good.

Rick Brunson:                    People having to make the decision of, yeah, we need to give the broccoli, but maybe we need a little cheese on the bro colli to make it more appetizing.

Paul Jarley:                         Honestly Rick, when you were mentioning the polling data before about how many people support the free press, I hesitated on the word “free” and maybe what they were telling us there. Why should I pay for news when I can get it for free? And how that’s kind of impacting kind of what’s going on.

Cindy Barth:                       It does because you know, when you put some kind of a paywall block on a story, I will always invariably at some point during the day, if it’s a really popular topic that you know people want to read, will invariably get emails of people complaining, “Well, I can’t access this? Why can’t I access this?” It’s like, “Because you’re not a subscriber.” “Well, I don’t want to subscribe, I just want to see this story. Can you just let me see it for free?” “No.”

Paul Jarley:                         But that’s a less clickalicious day.

Cindy Barth:                       Yeah.

Grant Heston:                   I’ve got to tell a story about clickalicious from a UCF perspective.

Paul Jarley:                         That’s totally getting into the cheese [crosstalk 00:29:52].

Grant Heston:                   Right. We-

Paul Jarley:                         You’re in the lead, Rick.

Grant Heston:                   At UCF are always amazed how often UCT appears in headlines, where the connection is very tenuous at best.

Paul Jarley:                         Somewhere in Europe, right?

Grant Heston:                   Right, like a former UCF student, it was semester eight years ago that a former UCF student, but our favorite was we’re waiting for the headlines of Rollin’s college student arrested on Rollin’s college campus near UCF.

Grant Heston:                   I think it goes because we know that you have 280 thousand alum who live around central Florida so you’re going to have people who click on that kind of thing.

Paul Jarley:                         So that gets us to the question, so what do students need to know about fake news? That’s the business I’m in, right? How do we help prepare them for that? Or discern that.

Rick Brunson:                    Go ahead, please Cindy.

Cindy Barth:                       I think it goes back to the same thing of really what we all need to be conscious of, and that’s not just taking things at face value, first look. It’s really incumbent on all of us to do a little bit more research, be a little more thorough in what we think that we’re reading and make sure that it’s actually real, because I’m not sure that we’re ever going to get rid of fake news at this point. It’s just such an easy thing to throw around. But I think that we have to begin training people and kind instilling in them the understanding that it’s really important that you know that what you’re reading is actually factual. You don’t want to be helping spread something that’s not proved. You don’t want to be just relying on something that’s not true.

Paul Jarley:                         Rick, what do you think?

Rick Brunson:                    This whole thing, well, the business that we’re in at UCF is critical thinking no matter what our discipline is. It’s turning out citizens who are good critical thinkers. This whole enterprise of America is built on the idea and a crucial nature of informed citizens. Madison, Jefferson, all those guys, their biggest fear was a dummy with the vote. It really was. They put education in place, they put the first amendment in place. You have to have informed citizens. You have to have facts before you can have meaningful debate.

Rick Brunson:                    Who gathers those facts? Primarily journalists, but all of us, as citizens, as consumers, owe it to ourselves, and this is going to sound corny and cheesy, but we owe it to our country, we owe it to our communities to inform ourselves with good solid information and intel that’s actionable. We’re coming up on midterm elections and we’re going to be voting about a whole host of things including amendments, we’re constantly dealing with the constitution in Florida. You have to have good, solid information upon which to exercise your voice as a citizen.

Rick Brunson:                    It’s important that you be able to think critically, that you be able to weigh different sources of information, look at their sourcing, look at how recent they are, how primary are the source documents or the expertise of the people being interviewed? Do they know what they’re talking about? What’s the intellectual basis of what this news article or story on television that you’re reading, what is it based on and is that solidly sourced information?

Rick Brunson:                    It comes down to being critical, can vigorously skeptical about what you’re reading without becoming Cynical and not reading anything. I’m worried about the person whose just thrown their hands up and given up and been like, “I’m not going to read anything and just look at cat names all day.” That person scares me more than anything.

Paul Jarley:                         Grant?

Grant Heston:                   I think specifically the business students, I think of the interdisciplinary work, like the college of medicine does with the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, or the college of business does with engineering. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see if the Nicholson School and the college of business could work on, how do you monetize real news? How do you overhaul a business model that really isn’t working?

Grant Heston:                   I remember, I came to the Sentinel in 2000. We just gave everything away for free. That’s hard to pull that back. You’re used to getting something for free, it’s going to be hard to get people to pay for it. It’d be interesting to see, is there a different type of model that’s fit for the 21st century that brings value to the news gathering and the expertise that journalists have, but also elevates it clearly above all the rest of the noise and the nonsense that’s out there.

Paul Jarley:                         It’s my podcast, so I get to go last. Distorting or inventing the truth is not new. It’s been around well before the printing press. It has been part of the arsenal of totalitarian regimes for a long time. What is new is that today anyone can be a reporter who creates and disseminates real as well as fake news far and wide. Even more dangerous is the marriage of fake news with data analytics. Not everyone has access to such metrics, but those who do can target their falsehoods to people who are most receptive to their message and most likely to disseminate it widely through their networks.

Paul Jarley:                         It’s impossible for any of us to check every fact, we all come to rely on certain sources that have earned our trust. Perhaps the best weapon we have against fake news is to question any story or source of data that just confirms what we think we already know.

Paul Jarley:                         It is increasingly likely that you are targeting to receive that information by an algorithm that understands your biases well better than you do. Fake news will continue to be a thing so long as it’s effective and motivates people to do what the fake news reporter wants you to do. In a democracy founded on a free press, it’s not going away any time soon. Reader or viewer, beware. What’s your take?

Paul Jarley:                         Check us out online and share your thoughts at business.ucf.edu/podcast

Paul Jarley:                         You can also find extended interviews with our guests and notes from the show. Special thanks to my producer Josh Miranda and whole team at the Office of Outreach and Engagement here at the UCF college of business. And thank you for listening!

Paul Jarley:                         Until next time, charge on.