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‘Fake news’ seminar can build confidence

We need news and information, but it’s good to take it in with a healthy bit of skepticism. How much is healthy? Doubt too much, and you refuse to see the world as it is, which could lead you to cynicism or conspiracy theories. But if you’re too blindly trusting, you can get duped.

If you think for yourself and know what to watch for, you can read news from even the most biased source and appreciate what’s valuable about it while not letting its spin get to you.

There are a lot of spin doctors out there — and even a few straight-up liars, spreading not just misinformation but disinformation, falsehoods spread with the intent to deceive. Some are foreign agents trying to divide Americans in order to weaken us as a nation. Others are terrorists, domestic and foreign. There can be real danger in being sucked in.

To help give you confidence in thinking for yourself and knowing what to watch for, the Enterprise is co-sponsoring a public presentation Tuesday night called “Seeking and Finding the Truth in a Fake News World.” It will be led by Mary Miller, education services director of the New York News Publishers Association. In addition to the Enterprise and NYNPA, it’s being sponsored by the Cloudsplitter Foundation and North Country Community College. It will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the NCCC Lecture Hall, room S-19 on the Saranac Lake campus.

Miller recently gave a student version of this presentation to middle and high school students in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, and now she is giving an adult version, free and open to anyone.

We reported in September on how she taught Lake Placid middle schoolers to spot real, accurate news reporting. With a slide show, demonstrations and a handout, she offered the students a lot of information in 80 minutes. If there’s one takeaway from that experience, she said, it’s, “Question. Always question.”

Is this accurate? How can I tell? Does it have an attribution? Is there a byline?

“Verify, independence and accountability,” she said after the program. “Who wrote this? Why did they write this? And is this person objective? Does this person have a stake in the game? … That questioning should never go away.

“Fake news has become a term that we’re all too familiar with, and while I don’t like the term fake news, misinformation and disinformation are part of our reality,” she said. “Pandora’s box has been opened, and now we have to deal with that reality that there are people who are deliberately trying to change the message or morph the message. And we as news consumers are responsible to make sure that we do our best to get the information correct.”

We hope to see many of you Tuesday night.

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