In an era when "fake news" has become a cynical, overused phrase that stretches the boundaries of credibility itself, academics and journalists are trying to restore some order.
On April 11, the seventh annual conference on civility and civic dialogue will convene at the University of San Diego to discuss how to make facts matter in a world that sometimes denies them. The panel is called "Media Literacy: Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World."
It is sponsored by the University of San Diego's Institute for Peace & Justice, and among the panelists are Matthew Hall, editorial and opinion director at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist, Steve Breen.
“The joke in the last election was ‘truthiness’ and I think we’ve gone past ‘truthiness,’” Matt Hall told NBC 7’s Politically Speaking host Gene Cubbison.
“Look, journalism has problems that it needs to handle, we make mistakes, but we try to correct them.”
Hall said journalists are in the crosshairs of people who want to tear down journalistic credibility.
“I think journalistic credibility maybe never has been as important as it is now, and that’s something we fight for every day,” he said.
He said journalists like Breen and him are now going out to conferences like the one at USD as well as libraries and schools to speak about the importance of the fourth estate and media literacy, the difference between fake news and real news – and how to tell the difference
“It’s not just Walter Cronkite saying this is the world,” he said. “There’s a million ways to consume news, a million ways to deliver news and it’s on readers, viewers, listeners to try to figure out what’s real and what’s not.”
Breen said editorial cartooning is especially polarizing because it’s opinion.
“I’ll do a cartoon one day and people will come at me with emails and Facebook comments that I’m a raging liberal and then the next day I might do a cartoon on another topic and people will say you’re a conservative Nazi and you should be fired so it’s really, really polarized right now.”
Hall said journalists are bulwarks of the truth, local news outlets are shrinking.
“We talk about more focus on national politics than local – a lot of that is because there are entire news deserts where areas of the state and county aren’t getting covered because news outlets are shrinking, there are fewer journalists to do the work. And that’s a problem for everyone.”
"Media Literacy: Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World” will take place on April 11from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. The lecture is free and you can register here.