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The invention of the internet has changed journalism a lot over the years, and in Professor Michael Bugeja’s Thursday lecture “Fakes, Hacks, Fibs and Tales: Journalism Ethics” on Zoom, he dug into how the news got slowly transformed into opinion, what social role the media plays in the problem and how to fight it in the short and long term.

Bugeja teaches media ethics, technology, and social change at Iowa State University (ISU) and was the second speaker in this year’s Shear-Colbert Symposium lecture series at Marshalltown Community College (MCC). The theme for the 2022 symposium – originally organized by the late history professor Tom Colbert – is “Fact or Fake: Information Today”.

Bugeja started his presentation by explaining how the distribution of news has changed in recent years and said that more and more people are now getting their news from social media rather than directly from news outlets. He also spoke about how little confidence people had in the accuracy of the information they consumed.

“Seventy-two percent of Republicans expect the news to be incorrect, 46% of Democrats and 52% of Independents think that way. So if you think the news is wrong, why are you watching it? The answer to that is that it is convenient to do so,” Bugeja said.

In the past, the public had to wait for the next news cycle to get information, which gave them time to check the facts. Bugeja said the internet has created a culture of instant gratification that does not always provide enough time to ensure information is accurate. Moreover, as a large part of the population receives their information for free online, fewer journalists are in the field due to a lack of income.

Bugeja also showed a media bias chart, which sorted a range of news organizations into left, right and neutral categories. He said the neutral medium is less appealing because it’s both cluttered and unprofitable.

“Consumers want information on demand, but experts tell you what they think, and that’s important because the margins are too low in the most objective medium,” Bugeja said.

The spread of fake news was also a topic of discussion. Bugeja said false rumors on social media platforms like Twitter spread faster and to more people than truthful reports because consumers seek “affirmation rather than information”.

“A viral, inaccurate report on NBC, for example, can taint all reporters and then suddenly, if there’s a fake news segment people are seeing on Fox, then all of Fox is bad or all of CNN is bad. So we come into this idea where we are looking for affirmation. We don’t want information. We don’t want our views on the world to change,” Bugeja said.

A rise in partisanship has been a major driver of the phenomenon, and Bugeja said it has led people to seek information that reaffirms their own views and has also created a wedge between people on different sides of the political aisle.

Being attentive, seeking knowledge and genuinely interacting with others to see where they are coming from are just some of the solutions Bugeja offers to combat this partisanship and the rise of opinion-based news in everyone’s lives. days.

“We are far too comfortable being uninformed but friends. Reverse that, let’s be informed,” he said.

Other short-term solutions included supporting local nonprofit news organizations such as the Iowa Capital Dispatch and charging social media platforms to use news content. In the long term, Bugeja said introductory media and technology courses should be compulsory starting in middle school.

“Journalism should be a general education. If we’re going to use our cellphones to document news and then post it on social media, let’s teach people who don’t want to become journalists about some of the ethical journalism practices they can adopt,” he said. .

In addition to the educational component, Bugeja said making truth a part of everyday life was equally important in restoring the accuracy of information.

“The best way to do this is to bring the truth to life in your everyday life. Don’t rely on journalism and social media to tell you the truth,” Bugeja said. “Realize that your point of view is not reality.”

The third and final lecture in the 2022 Shear-Colbert Symposium Series will feature Drake University Assistant Professor and STEM Librarian Dan Chibnall on April 14.


Contact Susanna Meyer at 641-753-6611 or

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