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Fake News: Susan Campbell to Deconstruct Timely Topic

February 20 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm


“Fake news” is nothing new. In 1806, Thomas Jefferson sued The Hartford Courant for libel. He lost. According to Susan Campbell, Jefferson’s ploy was a bogus suit by a president fed up with the news coverage he was receiving. Campbell, a columnist for The Hartford Courant, will deconstruct contemporary news coverage in a free presentation “Fake News: Citizens—Arm Yourselves!” at the New Haven Museum. Snow date is February 27.


The event concludes a year-long initiative by Connecticut Humanities, “Fake News: Is it Real? Journalism in the Age of Social Media,” created to facilitate a statewide conversation about why people are distrustful of news, how technology is changing information consumption, and how citizens can better evaluate news sources.


According to Campbell, media manipulation has gone by many names, from propaganda to parody to satire and all points in between. She cites one of the first recorded incidents of fake news, in 44 BCE, when Octavian started a smear campaign against Mark Antony. According to one historian, Octavian printed Twitter-worthy, anti-Antony slogans on coins and distributed them.


The difference now, Campbell says, is that charges of fake news are often leveled by people in power on social media, which tends to lend more gravitas to those complaints than those made by the public about a local newspaper or television station.


“Climbing out of this hole will take some recalibration by members of the press,” says Campbell. “We are fallible and have certainly made some mistakes.” And, she adds, it will take far more media literacy on the part of news consumers, “Otherwise, we’ll all keep getting played.”


Campbell will share some quick-and-easy tips for discerning fake news from real, particularly on social media platforms like Twitter. She’ll also give reasons for optimism. “History tells us—again and again—that truth will out,” Campbell says. “It’s like a weed coming up between cracks in the sidewalk, but eventually, it will out. If we had better media literacy among the general populace it wouldn’t take so long to come out, but it will.”


Following Campbell’s presentation, staff from the Connecticut Historical Society, Connecticut’s Old State House, Fairfield Museum, New Haven Free Public Library, and Prospect Public Library will highlight results from the Fake News projects they held with funding from Connecticut Humanities. Projects ranged from lectures putting the relationship between the press and the government into historical context to a series of workshops to help educators, high school students and the general public navigate contemporary and historic issues and events in the news.


A compilation video of works created by media students at Middlesex Community College and journalism students at Capital Community College will also be shown, including interviews exploring where people get their news from and their perceptions of the media today.


Scott Wands, manager of grants and programs for Connecticut Humanities, says “When we identified this as a situation that wasn’t going to change we endeavored to give people the confidence and skills to evaluate news sources in today’s digital age. It’s an important and timely topic, and we hope the program has been the catalyst for a larger conversation and possibly some concrete solutions.”


The “Fake News” program is part of the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The initiative seeks to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vital connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism, and an informed citizenry.New haven Museum


February 20
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
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New Haven Museum
114 Whitney Ave
New Haven, CT 06510 United States
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