Project Censored confronts “fake news” phenomenon

Project Censored – SF State hosted a forum to talk with students about the importance of confronting “fake news” in today’s society.

The organization encourages students and faculty to rethink the idea of what news is and develop critical thinking skills to do so.

Kenn Burrows, Project Censored – SF State advisor and health studies lecturer, arranged the forum and holds regular weekly meetings open to students on Wednesdays at 10:30  a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in the Holistic Health Learning Center, located in the Health and Social Sciences Building.

Mickey Huff, Project Censored director and Diablo Valley College social science and history professor, was invited to speak.

“Is the problem really fake news or is the problem a lack of critical thinking skills and a lack of critical media literacy education in our population?” Huff asked. “Fake news wouldn’t be a problem if we had a society of educated people critically about sources.”

Huff said the development of social media has allowed the public to easily share news stories without critically thinking about the accuracy of the information, therefore inaccurate information quickly spreads to the broader public.

“What are you digesting at the time? How much critical analysis research and fact checking is happening in 90 seconds?” Huff asked.

Mickey Huff, the director of Project Censored, speaks to students about fake news in HSS Room 154 at SF State on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. (Sarahbeth Maney/Xpress).

Project Censored, a 40-year-old research organization, works to educate the public about the importance of the free press in a democracy by exposing news censorship and has studied the issue of propaganda over the last decade as well as the recent phenomenon of so-called “fake news.”

Burrows said student researchers who have studied journalism or broadcast and electronic communication arts agree that their experience at Project Censored provides them with the larger picture of what is going on.

“Now they want to be in journalism in a deeper way,” Burrows said. “They were dissatisfied with their training that didn’t help them [be] prepared to wholly see the world and how to help journalism help the world.”

Christopher Oscar, a writer and a producer working with Project Censored, released a documentary film, “Project Censored The Movie: Ending the Reign of Junk Food News,” in 2013.

The film, which Oscar spent six years making, compiled interviews of those involved in the organization and documented their efforts to educate media literacy and manage propaganda and censorship in news media.

Oscar and his production team are currently working on another film with new interviews and information, which may be completed by September 2017.

Kamila Janik, a consumer and family studies major, said Wednesday’s talk was relevant because everyone needs to think critically about the issues being raised under the current administration.

“I think it’s very important to go back to the facts and basics,” said Janik, who worked with Project Censored last semester and showed interest in joining again after attending Wednesday’s event.

Oscar said the recent increase in downloads of the film demonstrates a rise in public interest about the topic.

The producer believes the domination of “fake news” in headlines has caused the film to take off. “It’s been called up by a current president,” Oscar said.

“He’s attacking the media. He uses the words ‘fake news.’ He knows how to use media.”

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