FYS 137 Fake News

Thomas Jefferson wrote to Richard Price in 1789 “that wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government,” and the so-called Fourth Estate has long played the role of watchdog. Over the last decade or so, however, trust in the media has declined, and the veracity of news and information has become further complicated by the rise of social media and a Fifth Estate. As if to anticipate our current dilemma, Jefferson added in his letter to Price “that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they [the people] may be relied on to set them to rights.” How far wrong have things gotten in this era of “Fake News” and how do we set them to rights? With Jefferson as our anchor—along with reference to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” as well as a history of the rise and fall of the media and the growth of technology—the course will investigate several case studies from a critical and non-partisan framework to think about the role of media in a democratic society, with students leading portions of these discussions. That said, one of the course group assignments will involve taking a specifically partisan approach to devise a strategy that exploits fake news using social media regarding a current event or issue. Groups will also be responsible for contributing to our four case studies. Finally, students will learn to write in the “inverted pyramid” or so-called Associated Press style and write reflections on visits by guest speakers.