Steve Wolgast, Assistant Professor of Journalism and Digital Media at K-State, spoke about “fake news” at Thursday’s meeting with the Rotary Club of Topeka Downtown.
Wolgast explained why there are published stories in the news that turn out to be false.
“In journalism we believe in the importance of skepticism,” said Wolgast. “If a source tells you something, you’re supposed to check it out to see if it’s true. But sometimes reporters feel the urge to publish online before running a claim by knowledgeable sources or before letting editors have a chance to take a look. When they post it, the public pulls out their cell phones and we gobble it up.”
Wolgast also gave tips for the reader to follow to ensure that the story they are reading is factual. He says if the article’s headline is outrageous or sounds too good to be true, it probably is. He also says to look for clear writing. Small errors and misuse of words reveal the unfamiliarity from which the reporter is coming from.
“We also believe in named sources,” said Wolgast. “That’s so the reader can evaluate the credibility of the person speaking. If there’s going to be anonymity, the reporter needs to say why. Maybe the person is not authorized to speak on the record and if the person does so they could be fired, or maybe the person will be in personal danger.”
Wolgast says he teaches his students that everything someone says is worth being challenged.
“It’s up to you to think critically about the next unbelievable or outrageous post you see,” said Wolgast to the Rotary Club of Topeka Downtown. “Consider that before you click like and retweet it.”