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Iowa State School of Journalism Conference Tackles Fake News

AMES, Iowa  --  The Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism sponsored the Greenlee Summit on Trending Strategies in the media. The conference focused on the changing media landscape and how the media has to do more with fewer resources.

One of the panels focused on the topic of “fake news."

“Trump didn’t invent distrust in the media, it was already there,” said Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News, formerly of the Des Moines Register. “Many people thought the media had some sort of liberal lean to it, that we’re elite, that we’re out of touch. The best thing I learned from my journalism professors and from Kathie (Obradevich) when she was my editor was just to be rigorously neutral.”

The panel also featured a First Amendment lawyer from Des Moines named Michael Giudicessi, who advised the Des Moines Register on many issues regarding First Amendment questions.

“People are saying it’s okay to regulate, is it okay to regulate, and should you allow regulation?" said Giudicessi. “I think those are the issues that you should be worried about, and those are the issues that you should be concerned about, not whether there’s fake news.”

Giudicessi added that many have a “sky is falling” attitude to the frenzy over perceived media bias. He said that with social media the bar is lowered and everyone has a voice. Even voices, you may not agree with.

The panel also heard from Walker McKusick, the National Director for Vote Smart. His organization collects data to help media fact check on candidate stands.

“Young and the old, the left and the right have come together on one common principal that they agree on, is that facts matter,” said McKusick. “They believe, and we still believe, that information, factual and clear, is crucial to our civic health.”

Jennifer Jacobs recounted a statement she heard from one of the students at the Stoneman-Douglas High School.

“She said something about 'journalism is a form of activism.' There are hard-news reporters who think that kind of mentality is what’s killing trust in journalism,” said Jacobs. “Opinion writing certainly can be a form of activism, sure, but journalism, hard-news journalism is presenting the facts honestly and objectively.”

The conference was for members of the media and public relations firms in Iowa.