Fake news to be topic of talk by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter
Chris Ison, media ethics professor at U of M, will speak Feb. 20 on campus
February 14, 2017
The issue of fake
news, a controversial national topic in recent weeks and during the
presidential campaign, will be discussed at University of Wisconsin-Stout by a
Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and media ethics expert.
Chris Ison, a
professor from the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass
Communication, will present “Earning Trust in the Age of Fake News: How Did We
Get Here, and How Can We Make Responsible Journalism Stand Out Amid the Chaos?”
from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20, in Ballroom A of the Memorial Student
will be followed by a discussion.
has been fooling the public in various forms for at least two centuries, for
much the same reasons as today: profit and politics. Phony stories were used to
sell papers and support politicians in the days of the Penny Press,” Ison said.
“And ‘sponsored content’ — advertising created to look like
news — has been a key revenue source since news migrated to the web. But
the 2016 election exposed its dangers more clearly. The question is, can it be
controlled in an environment where political divisions grow deeper and where anyone
can be a publisher?” he said.
previously was assistant managing editor for investigative projects and a
reporter at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. He and colleague Lou Kilzer won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for a series of
investigative reports on links between the St. Paul Fire Department and arsons
and suspicious fires.
also co-authored the book "Media Ethics Today: Issues, Analysis,
Solutions." Ison teaches media ethics, along with news
and investigative reporting.
The program is
sponsored by UW-Stout’s Center for Applied Ethics
and the Bachelor of Science program in professional communication and emerging
The Center for Applied Ethics provides programming around
ethical issues affecting students, campus and the community. “Our goal is to
engage students and get them thinking critically about things that have an
impact on their lives,” said Elizabeth Buchanan, ethics center director and
acting director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. “This program
will provide an opportunity for students to reason and debate meaningfully
about politics, truth and the role of the media.
“Further, all our students learn about professional ethics
and decision-making that affects them in their personal and professional lives,
and this topic is one that really hits on that intersection of professional and
personal ethics,” Buchanan said.
Associate Professor Kate Edenborg, associate director of the
Center for Applied Ethics, led the effort to bring Ison to campus. “The topics
of fake news and alternative facts have been so prevalent lately that we wanted
to give students the opportunity to think about and talk about them,” Edenborg
Edenborg has been discussing the issues in her
journalism and media classes this spring. “As an instructor, I want my students
to become aware of their biases and how those can influence how they present
content to an audience.
“In my classes we discuss journalistic ethics and have
conversations about what responsibilities journalists have. I don’t believe
it’s my job to tell my students what to think but to get them to think. That’s
very similar to a journalist’s role — to provide information that allows a
reader to come to his or her own conclusions,” Edenborg said.