Fitchburg profs to discuss ‘real talk about fake news’ 

Staff Report
Published: 3/2/2020 10:33:41 PM
Modified: 3/2/2020 10:33:36 PM

SHIRLEY — Learn how to identify fake news and misinformation online with faculty and librarians from Fitchburg State University on Sunday, March 22 at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley.

This interactive workshop, which begins 11 a.m., will use real-life examples to cover the impact of misinformation, the importance of truth, and how to spot and fight fake news, regardless of politics.

Panelists will include:

Wafa Unus, assistant professor from the English Studies Department, teaches journalism, news reporting and writing, and advises the student newspaper. Her research covers local news deserts, the history of American journalism, contemporary journalism practice as influenced by seminal moments and individuals in early American journalism, journalism curriculum in higher education and news literacy.

“The ability to navigate this new iteration of news media is, in part, dependent on our understanding of the process and function of journalism,” Unus said in a prepared statement. “Complicated by its unique position as a public trust in a private industry, the product of news can sometimes overshadow its value as a public necessity. News literacy is a foundational, and increasingly necessary skill for today’s informed citizen.”

Renée Fratantonio, instruction and research librarian, teaches information literacy and research strategies for students and faculty. She specializes in misinformation and is responsible for creating and maintaining a guide for understanding and researching fake news on the Fitchburg State library’s website.

“We aim to teach others mindsets and strategies for evaluating information in multiple formats,” Fratantonio said in a prepared statement. “It is easy to be deceived by misinformation and fake news online, in part, because anything can be made to look professional and trustworthy. While many people can recognize a tabloid magazine for what it is, digital ‘tabloids,’ and other more manipulative sites, are not easily recognizable. This is an opportunity to think critically and reflect upon what we consider trustworthy sources and learn how to find, evaluate, and share information ethically.”

J.J. Sylvia IV, assistant professor of the Communications Media Department, teaches classes on human communication and communication law and ethics. His research focuses on analyzing the impacts of big data, algorithms, and other new media.

“New technological innovations tend to shift the way we learn about and interact with the world,” Sylvia said in a prepared statement. “This was as true for the printing press and the telegraph as it is for the internet and social media today. But living through one of these periods of innovation can be disorienting because we haven’t yet fully understood how these tools work or how they impact us. For me, one of the major aims of this workshop and our broader research on fake news is to start getting our bearings in this new information age.”

Kyle Moody, assistant professor of the Communications Media Department, teaches classes on social media, professional communication, and media history. His research covers online community information exchanges, mods for video games, and rituals of human-electronic communication.

“Fake news and misinformation impacts all of us, old and young, progressive and conservative,” said Moody in a prepared statement. “But identifying misinformation can be difficult. The goal of this workshop is to provide essential training in locating and navigating misinformation of all stripes, all while in a relaxing environment that encourages collegiality and engagement. Put simply, we want to make truth and information great again. As Fitchburg State continues to fight fake news through its strong interdisciplinary liberal arts and science focus, we’ll show members of the community how we use modern tools to combat misinformation.”

Tickets are $23 and include brunch buffet, all tax and gratuity (with breakfast service starting 10 a.m.). A cash bar will also be available. Tickets can be ordered online at

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