The Memorial Union Building Theater 1 welcomed quite a crowd on Wednesday night, Nov. 30, as Matt Kanner was welcomed to UNH＊s campus. The current publisher of The Sound: Independent News for the Seacoast, Kanner addressed the attendees as part of an Office of Student Involvement and Leadership (OSIL) workshop about the topic of how to avoid fake news.
Being a former editor for The Wire and a former employee of both The Stowe Reporter and of Foster＊s Daily Democrat, Kanner said he is personally invested in the subject of fake news.
“Anyone can go online and find sources to validate their own biases,” Kanner said when discussing how easy it is to encounter and even believe fake news nowadays. By using the example of a recent article claiming that famous actor and filmmaker Clint Eastwood was moving to Portsmouth, Kanner drew attention to the fact that even some local news can be fake.
“I’ve never thought about fake news being a problem before,” UNH sophomore and Alpha Xi Delta (AXiD) sorority member Mary Rayno said. As part of a requirement for her sorority, Rayno and many other members of AXiD attended the leadership event to better educate themselves on ways to get credible news.
Kanner, a University of Colorado Boulder graduate, spoke passionately about the need for fact checking in the modern day times of social media. With such wide use of Facebook and Twitter, and the habit of many people to believe most of what they read on these social media sites, fake news stories are able to spread rapidly while also influencing many people＊s opinions on multiple topics.
“Don’t let your opinions about politics or social issues blind your way to the truth,” Kanner said to the crowd.
He also discussed many fake articles that circulated due to the recent presidential election, including rumors about paid voters and voter fraud. According to him, these articles even helped to influence the outcome of an election due to people＊s quickness to believe the fake news reports.
The local news publisher brought attention to people like Paul Horner, an avid fake news article fabricator who has written many articles in the past that have been widely taken as fact. Horner even wrote fake articles during the recent presidential election directed at Trump’s campaign, which led him to having a sit down interview with The Washington Post.
“For a lot of people, there is utter distrust of the media in general,” Kanner said.
Speaking on when news publications attempt to discredit false news stories, Kanner said it could just bring more light to the original fake story, causing more people to believe that no media source can be trusted.
“This was a new kind of event on its own,” OSIL employee Adam Aasen said. Aasen filled in for Coordinator of Student Organizations & Leadership Nate Hastings in hosting the event.
Aasen elaborated that Hastings is attempting to bring more talks to UNH that would help open students’ eyes to things happening the world. Bringing Kanner to UNH was a part of this effort.