Review: “How to Fight Fake News” Event at the French Consulate on November 14, 2017

Cover image: How to Fight Fake News at the 934 Conférence courtesy of the French Consulate

Consule-Générale Anne-Claire Legendre – Courtesy of the French Consulate

 

“You will be the heroes of this topic,” Alexander Eisenchteter began. Little did we know in the audience that we would be the ones “debating” and “co-creating solutions” at the How to Fight Against Fake News 934 Conférence at the French Consulate.

I suddenly felt more relaxed, although up until that point, I had been in awe of the glamour and trappings of the French Consulate on Fifth Avenue. Looking at my attire, I wondered whether I’d fit in among the well dressed. Straightening my dress, taking a mental deep breath, I switched to “French mode.”

Interior of the French Consulate © Meg for WhereNYC

 

 

Before me stood six large round tables, enough to seat six people each, complete with iPads. As a public school teacher who reads the “5 Things to Know for Your New Day” every morning on the CNN app on my daily commute (and not much more), I though I was out of my depth.

Alexander Eisenchter making the rounds. Courtesy of the French Consulate

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Eisenchteter, co-founder of Stormz, a friendly looking guy with red glasses, approached our table and introduced himself. His interactive presentation focused largely on the audience, as we discovered with the iPads on our table. For a teacher like myself, I know that student-centered lessons are always a plus.

After a brief introduction by Consule-Générale Anne-Claire Legendre, David Andelman, both former editor and publisher of World Policy Journal and journalist for the New York Times discussed the phenomena of “old news that’s surviving today.” Before 24-hours news stations existed, few considered news as ‘fake,’ whereas now, the majority of public have grown skeptical. With the many layers of readers and writers and the complexity of the Internet, for Mr. Andelman, “trust is the most important thing” in order to fight against fake news.

“Nous sommes tous les médias!”  – Courtesy of the French Consulate

Mathieu Magnaudeix, U.S. correspondent for the French-based news agency Mediapart, defined fake news as “false information,” often created by “ideological people.” While President Donald Trump derides unfavorable coverage as “fake news to appear as a victim of the media,” his constant presence in the news can inadvertently aid his popularity.

Mediapart calls itself an “ad-free, investigative news website,” that depends on the support of its subscribers. When comparing news coverage in both America and across the pond, Mr. Magnaudeix states that the coverage in the U.S. tends to be more polemical and “talks too much of fights and not much about ‘real’ problems” — unlike its European counterparts. For Mr. Magnaudeix, the solution is to educate oneself rather than complain about fake news. But some in the audience believed that fake news like tabloids are popular due to the entertainment and “instant gratification over what reality is.”

It was then our turn to be media sleuths as we worked on the following:

1) Challenge Storming (i.e. Come up with “How to” questions related to the topic)

2) Generate Seeds of Ideas (i.e. Come up with possible answers to the “How to” questions)

3) Select Most Appealing Seeds (i.e. Add points to appealing answers to the “How to” questions)

4) Present one “solution” as a group

Using the Stormz app on our iPads placed on the tables, each group collaboratively brainstormed questions and ideas. Mr. Eisenchteter, our animated facilitator, brought the whole audience together for a debrief after every 10-15 minutes.

Following the “Challenge Storming,” we searched for common words used among our groups. For example, a commonly used word in our “How to” questions was “reliable,” as in, “How to identify a reliable source?” Like Presi or NearPod, The Stormz app was very engaging and easy to use, allowing us to type our answers, or ‘seeds’ of ideas, while seeing the other groups’ seeds, and then providing feedback. Mr. Eisenchteter then projected the most popular ‘seeds’ including: “Advertising transparency – who is paying for the news?” As an educator, I would definitely consider using Stormz in my classroom.

Our table group came up with the following solution: “We are all media. We are responsible. – Eliminate safe harbor from legal liability for online publishers of fake news,”  which received a round of applause. Some ideas that other groups came up with were “create media literacy classes in schools” and “emphasize critical thinking in the education system.” Although perhaps I was the only teacher amongst the audience, it was refreshing to see how pedagogical activities like this can be used to discuss global affairs – and lead back to education.

French hospitality – Courtesy of the French Consulate

Mr. Andelman concluded the event with “Don’t sue [journalists],” and “I love the idea of democracy taking its course.”

After the event, wine and orange juice were on offer in the reception across the hall. As I was on an empty stomach, I enjoyed a glass of orange juice, and left during the  mingling portion of the evening.

It was a satisfying experience to attend, and any teacher would probably appreciate Mr. Eisenchteter’s interactive approach to understanding current events.

Merci, French Consulate, for a very educational event. And yes, I take full responsibility for my words. This is not fake news.

For more information visit the 934 Conference.