Professors suggest ways to debunk fake news

Andrea Perdomo/Contributing Writer

While the term “fake news” seems to have been created during the last year’s presidential campaign, the spreading of false news has always existed, according to FIU professors.

Spreading falsehoods, historically, has been a tactic to ensure a political agenda, according to Fred Blevens, a professor who specializes in media literacy, but the current administration’s use of the method, he said, is “outrageous.”

“There can be alternative explanations, but never alternative facts,” said Blevens. “A fact is a fact. To suggest otherwise is scary and irresponsible.”

Associate professor from the College of Communication, Architecture and The Arts and Federal Communications Bar Association member Lorna Veraldi defined fake news as “fabricated stories that are made in a purposeful way, they are stories that are not real in any way.”  

A news organization getting one fact wrong doesn’t make an entire story false, according to Veraldi, and neither can a story be deemed false simply because a person doesn’t like what is being said.


Infographic by Nicole Malanga/PantherNOW

“I’m so over it,” said senior Kayleen Padron, a journalism major. “I don’t believe anything that is presented to me. I take everything I read and hear with a grain of salt.”

A Pew Center survey published in May 2017 found an increase in the amount of Americans that reported following national news closely from the previous year. There is a 23-point gap between the Democrats and Republicans on the subject of whether or not they feel that information from national news organizations is trustworthy. The findings revealed that Democrats find national news organizations more trustworthy than Republicans do. These findings show that trust in the media is divided along political lines.  

Associate professor Alejandro Alvarado of the Spanish Language Journalism Master’s program, finds that Hispanic media is “not advocates of fake news.” Alvarado said that in his experience, the Hispanic audience is aware of the bias that takes place in journalism but that the audience tends to trust Hispanic media more as they associate journalists as “advocates for their rights.”


Blevens believes the media can maintain credibility with the American public by adopting new methods of storytelling.

“The mainstream media, not all at the same time, came to a point that they could no longer just continue to print false information and not challenge it,” he said.  “So, they started putting in their stories essentially saying what’s not true. You know, they quote the president and in the next paragraph they come along and say what the actual fact is.”

The news organizations, Blevens said, should continue to use this “unconventional, but bold” method of calling out false information as it appears to be effective.

Consumers also have the ability to screen content before reading or listening to it, according to Veraldi.

“The internet makes the spreading of false news more of a problem because it’s so easy for almost anyone to publish this stuff. We need to look critically at something that is reported,” said Veraldi. “There is a lot of fact checking in publications. News from social media or blogs are not as likely to get those fact-checks.”

Senior journalism student and Panther Press staff writer Damian Gordon found a positive aspect of the fake news saga, however.

“I think it’s great. All this fake news brings on a type of awareness, making people think twice before they read anything; maybe even research a little on their own like a journalist,” he said.

For those who want to do their own investigation on the trustworthiness of a surprising headline, Journalism professor Neil Reisner recommends websites such as, or to verify the facts stated in a story.


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