President Mark McCoy only has one toe on his right foot and is an avid fan of Norwegian death metal. This is a fake news headline and exactly what Craig Silverman, Buzzfeed’s first media editor, tries his hardest to combat.
Thursday, Silverman will visit DePauw University to highlight the dangers of fake news in today’s media. Along with a public lecture at 7 p.m. in Watson Forum, he will lead a workshop on the consequences of fake news in Watson Forum in the Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media.
Silverman’s arrival on campus is highly anticipated, as his expertise comes from an accomplished career background. According to business news website Fortune.com, he spearheaded a number of news media projects at various companies before working at Buzzfeed, including Emergent.info, an online startup aimed at exposing fake news articles. Before teaming with Buzzfeed, he wrote for the Poynter Institute, published a book about fact-checking called “Regret the Error,” and edited PBS MediaShift as well as the news startup, OpenFile.
Jonathan Nichols-Pethick, Media Fellows director, invited Silverman to visit campus a few months ago after hearing him speak on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” “Everyone needs to be able to do research, make sense of large amounts of information, and present that information clearly and in an engaging way,” Nichols-Pethick said.
Silverman’s recent transition from Buzzfeed Canada to Buzzfeed U.S. occurred when offices in Canada were moved around to support a growing interest in international news. Silverman began writing more about media in a separate Canada office where he is now the head media editor.
In the first few weeks on campus, Media Fellows students have already taken a deep-dive into the topic of fake news as well as Silverman’s studies of the topic. first-year Media Fellows student Alaina Stellwagen was quick to condemn its prevalence, saying, “Fake news is kind of sad. The media has this privilege that they are the source of most people’s knowledge, and it’s like, ‘don’t abuse that power.’”
Stellwagen believes dishonesty in the media has a domino effect, saying, “If you do [release fake news] you’re hurting other forms of media. You’re hurting their reputation.” Like many other students, Stellwagen looks forward to hearing Silverman’s “insider view” on fake news.
Media Fellows student Charlie Sorrells wants to learn “what modern journalism is and the problems [journalists] face,” he said.
Sorrells aspires to be a filmmaker and has already directed his own film. “From documentaries or journalism, I think it’s everyone’s job, to tell the truth as much as they can and if they don’t know the truth, then maybe not report on it at all,” Sorrells said.
Nichols-Pethick knows Silverman’s visit to campus will be valuable to students. He wrote, “I'm hoping that our students will see that career success like his is mostly a matter of being willing to do the hard work every day.”
In addition, Nichols-Pethick knows that “tools” are the key to identifying falsehoods in the media, saying, “That's what I hope Craig Silverman will bring to his workshop and his talk: a guide to the kinds of tools and mindsets that we can employ to guard against the spread of falsehoods.”