Our thanks to Robert Reyner, a BIS Researcher at RR Donnelly who kindly agreed to write this review of Fake News: Reading between the Lines held at the University of Liverpool in London on 29 November.
Fake news has become the term du jour this year as often highlighted by the President of the United States. So, this panel event sponsored by Global Business Information was a timely and informative one.
Events Committee Chair Andrew Grave started the evening by introducing the three speakers and chair:
Jo Tinning-Clowes (Dow Jones),
Phil Bradley (consultant)
Will Gore (Deputy Managing Editor of the Evening Standard and The Independent)
Chair Charlie Inskip (Lecturer and Programme Director of MA Library and Information Studies, UCL).
Jo began her talk called ‘Fifty Shades of Fake’ by examining the history of ‘fake news’ which is the word of the year for 2017 according to Collins.
Was it all started with Donald Trump as he has claimed? It would seem not. Jo found an article from 1890: Secretary Brunnell Declares Fake News About His People is Being Telegraphed Over the Country from the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune.
She then discussed the scale of fake news, from satire/parody, misrepresentation, mismatch, lazy journalism, trolls and malicious content.
Phil continued this theme in his talk ‘The Good, The Bad and the Incorrect.
He also discussed the motivations for fake news. The main one being money, but others were propaganda, to promote beliefs, to increase social media presence, and then the scary one, to spread malware.
The talk then turned to the use of search engines for news and the censorship of content that portals such as Google enforce. He showed a comparison of search results from different portals and how Google came back with none if the term was one that they wanted to restrict. A good reminder to use other search engines.
Will’s talk came from a different angle. He discussed the role of journalists and how dangerous it is for people who repeat the truth when Donald Trump can shut them down with one tweet. He then presented a video of a Kim Sengupta, Defence Correspondent of The Independent who talked about his time in conflict zones and his experiences trying to get to the heart of stories. The upshot seems to be that mainstream news and serious news platforms are seeing a growth in circulation. The readership of the Independent has gone from 50k printed copies per day when it was in print to over 120m monthly global readers now it’s online only.
After all that, we had a well-deserved intermission and then back for a Q&A session, chaired by Charlie Inskip. There were a lot of questions. The conclusions for many were that there is an onus on individuals to know their sources and to be responsible for what they are sharing. There was a suggestion that information literacy should be taught from a young age, so that they can learn and make their own minds up. Be sceptical, check the source of your information, double check using debunking sites. Think about the CRAAP test: (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose) of the article. Remember that in the UK, TV journalism is regulated, and that the print media is balanced if you read across the papers that support the different parties.
The Q&A session concluded and we all moved into another room for drinks and canapes
During this last part of the evening, the winners of the prize draw were also revealed.
Jamie Talmage and Katy Watt both won a £50 GBI voucher and a copy of Phil Bradleys’ book ‘Expert Internet Searching’. The top prize was won by Richard Nelsson appropriately of the Guardian Media Group. He took home a voucher and a Christmas Hamper from Fortnum and Mason!
It was an informative and interesting evening, rounded up with a fun social element at the end. If you weren’t there, hopefully you followed us on Twitter @slaeurope or the hashtag #SLAonFakeNews and you can now access the presentations below. Maybe next time, consider attending in person to gain the full SLA Europe experience and don’t depend solely on an online article!
Thanks to the SLA Events Committee for organising the event, and to Global Business Information for sponsoring it.
Phil’s presentation is available at https://www.slideshare.net/Philbradley/fake-news-82897778)
Jo will send you a copy of her presentation; just email her at