The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) reacts in the dugout after Texas A&M’s game against Tennessee at the NCAA Men’s College World Series finals at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M pitcher Kaiden Wilson (30) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Tennessee at the NCAA Men’s College World Series finals at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Aggie Agora workshop focusses on fact-checking in a post-truth society

Concerned about the increase of “fake news” in media, Aggie Agora held a workshop to teach key strategies for separating truth from fiction within news outlets.
At Aggie Agora’s last Wednesday Workshop of the year, Jennifer Mercieca, associate communication professor and director of the Aggie Agora, addressed the importance of fact checking daily news. The workshop, hosted on April 12, provided information on the current and historical aspects of fact checking and what readers can do to filter “fake news” — false information, including propaganda, disinformation, conspiracy theory and clickbait, that has become a growing source of income for some publications.
Six fact-checking tools presented in the workshop included going to the source directly for confirmation, seeking confirmation from multiple sources, checking the sources provided, reading the fine print of the questionable information, and utilizing fact-checking tools like the google reverse image search and Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine.
Google’s reverse image search is a feature used to search an image rather than a keyword or topic. Users can paste an image into the google search engine and details connected with that image will be displayed. Additionally, the user can take a photo and it will analyze the location. The Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine is an archive of the World Wide Web and can connect any link to additional information. The creators are currently working on a keyword-style search engine.
“I think fact checking is important for everyone, not just students, but it’s crucial,” Mercieca said. “If we can’t agree on what facts are, there’s no way we can solve problems, so the necessity of fact checking is that if we don’t figure out some way to stop re-circulating this information, I worry for the future of the nation, which sounds dire, but I think it is.”
Being able to spot a news source’s political bias is an integral part of filtering out fake news, Mercieca said.
“I think it reconfirms or confirms the bias people have when they hear information that they don’t like or that they think sounds biased or that they think is distorted or that they don’t trust for some other reason, then they hear ‘Oh, well it’s just post fact or post truth,’” Mercieca said. “I think that just further erodes the trust we have in the institutions of the government in the institution of journalism, in the process of reporting, and I think it’s bad. Journalists are heroes.”
One of the dominant concerns Mercieca expressed was the issue of trusting the media, something discussed by the previous Aggie Agora guest speaker, NYU professor Jay Rosen.
“We don’t have direct first-hand experience with whatever the thing is that is being reported on, so we have to trust other people are accurately conveying information to us in a way that helps us to make good decisions,” Mercieca said. “Right now we don’t have a lot of trust…which is really a shame because how can we, again, solve problems if we don’t trust people to accurately tell us information.”  
Mercieca explained in her lecture that fact-checking, which began to work its way into journalism during the 1992 election, is based solely on evidence, a somewhat different approach compared to traditional journalistic reporting. The 1992 election saw a transition from reporters simply reporting the events on the election trail to evaluating what happened, Mercieca said.
“Well, on the one hand we are overwhelmed with information and on the other hand we are overwhelmed with misinformation,” Mercieca said. “So I think a lot of people feel overwhelmed, and they don’t know how to tell what’s true from what’s not true because so much information circulates and it’s hard to know what’s right and what’s not.”
Bailey Coleman, communication junior, attended the workshop for a partner paper she is working on for her persuasion class.
“I definitely have more knowledge of fact checking than a lot of people my age because I am naturally a skeptical person, so this confirmed a lot of the stuff I already knew but also taught me better ways,” Coleman said. “I have never used Google reverse image search to fact check, but I know that would be helpful and I can teach it to my parents and grandparents this weekend.”

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