Panel on “Accountability & Transparency in News”, Western University, London

The panel on "Accountability and Transparency in News Media in an Era of 'Alternative Facts' " was held on Saturday, October 21, 2017, as part of the Western University Homecoming events. It was moderated by Paul Benedetti, a reporter and a columnist with the Hamilton Spectator as well as FIMS journalism instructor. Panelists included Sylvia Stead (Public Editor, Globe and Mail), Mary Baxter (TVO Hub Reporter), Rebecca Zandbergen (CBC London Morning Show host), Andrew Lundy (VP Digital, Canadian Press), and Victoria Rubin (FIMS Researcher and Professor).

Photography by @annlamanes
Photography by @markarayner

What was the panel about? The introductory material explains: "As the common understanding of the term "fake news" continues to evolve, and the credibility of traditionally mainstream media comes under greater scrutiny from a variety of stakeholders, everyday citizens are finding it increasingly difficult to know where to turn for reliable information. Join our panel of journalists as they discuss the challenges facing an industry that remains a cornerstone of democratic society. 

The panel was well attended with over 50 people in the audience. Dr. Rubin conducted a brief lie-truth discrimination experiment in which the audience was invited to tell truthful statements from a deceptive one.

This audience was, for the most part, successful with the task. In principle, however, people are poor lie detectors. The average success rates for identifying lies (out of one truthful and another deceptive piece) is typically about 54%, based on multiple interpersonal psychology and communication studies.

Victoria's main premise in this panel was that we should be looking at two types of solutions: technological and educational. She emphasized that such technologies can assist news readers in the task of identifying various types of fake of misleading information such as outright falsifications, satirical fakes, clickbait, and unverified rumors. Language technologies (such as deception detection, rumor debunking and satire detection) have the capacity to outperform human abilities to identify deception, rumors, and satire. Current non-technological solutions include information and media literacy education. Useful checklists for filtering out manipulated information are available to everyone who reads online, for example, see IFLA & FactCheck.com iconographic.

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