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Fact-checking in the Fake News Era

Posted by QED at 3:00pm on September 28th 2017

Mark Twain is often quoted as having said: “A lie can get halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes”. Ironically, there’s no evidence Mark Twain ever actually said this, yet the false attribution persists, repeated often enough to render it impervious to fact-checking. In a world where social media has accelerated the spread of falsehoods, what can seekers of truth do to stop a lie in its tracks, or at the very least help the truth lace up its boots?

In our Fake News session, our panel of experts will give an inside look at the workings of the media, highlighting how journalists can check what’s true, and what challenges prevent or disincentivise them from doing so. We’ll look at how journalists and readers can spot a real story from a falsehood, and understand how stories are sourced and verified. And we’ll look at the pressures in the media industry, how publications are (or aren’t) coping with those pressures, and what issues those coping mechanisms can create.

Our panel for this media session will be:

  • James Ball has worked in political, data and investigative journalism in the US and the UK for BuzzFeed, The Guardian and the Washington Post. His reporting has won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the Scripps Howard Prize, the British Journalism Award for investigative reporting, The Royal Statistical Society Award and the Laurence Stern Fellowship. His new book Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World tracks how truth has become a devalued commodity in political discourse and media coverage, and what we can do to help turn the tide.
  • Robin Brown is a lecturer at the University of Salford specialising in digital journalism. He was worked as a freelance journalist for outlets including New Statesman, Professional Manager and What’s On Stage and is currently working on a collection currently titled Myth And Reality in Contemporary British Politics for publication in 2018.
  • Clare Freeman has worked as a broadcast journalist for over a decade, mainly for the BBC. She's been a front line reporter for three general elections, an EU referendum, and was one of the first reporters on the scene during the Manchester Arena attack. Her accolades include a Guardian award for a documentary on male domestic violence, a Jerusalem Award 2017 nomination for best faith current affairs radio programme, and—rather bizarrely—is the first female commentator for ice hockey in the UK.
  • Michael Marshall’s blog Bad PR examines the prevalence of PR reprinted as journalism, and he is a guest lecturer on journalism and PR at Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sunderland. He has written for The Guardian, The Times and New Statesman.

QED tickets are still on sale, and you can pick yours up today.