Fake news discussed at Vail Symposium | VailDaily.com

Fake news discussed at Vail Symposium

Knight Foundation member Sam Gill discusses statistics of the public's trust in the media. Snopes founder David Mikkelson and journalist Greg Dobbs also contributed to the discussion.
Nate Day | Special to the Daily

It’s no secret that fake news is everywhere, and it’s becoming harder and harder to discern from the truth.

Luckily, the Vail Symposium brought three experts to the Hotel Talisa to talk about the subject. Award-winning journalist Greg Dobbs served as moderator, while Sam Gill of the Knight Foundation (an organization dedicated to promoting quality and honest journalism) and David Mikkelson (founder and CEO of http://www.snopes.com, the world’s leading fact-checking website) spoke on how fake news has developed and exists in today’s world.

The discussion kicked off with the trio recognizing that fake news means different things to different people. Some perceive¬†it as politicians spouting “alternative facts,” while others recognize it as news outlets running news with bias or unverified information.

“Whether it’s happening in the government, in advocacy groups or even just lone wolfs that think it’s cute, (fake news) is everywhere,” Dobbs said.

Gill discussed statistics surrounding trust for news sources in readers, as well as perceived bias. He pointed out that 43% of the nation’s news

Sam Gill of the Knight Foundation.

consumers have an unfavorable opinion of the media. Additionally, liberal voters had a more favorable opinion than conservative ones.

“What we should be worried about is the inability to determine what went through verification,” Gill said.

Mikkelson then took the floor and discussed his website. Snopes began as a hobby for Mikkelson.

“It was supposed to be a place where people could find stuff like whether Walt Disney was actually frozen when he died,” Mikkelson said. “He wasn’t.”

However, as the media grew and political reporting became a major part of journalistic coverage, Snopes became a source for people to turn to during the sensationalization of the news. For example, Snopes debunked the theory that Vice President Mike Pence ever openly advocated for gay conversion therapy.

David Mikkelson, founder and CEO of Snopes.

“Before the election, most of the media coverage seemed to be anti-democrat,” Mikkelson noted. “It’s pretty much equal now between the two.”

The program then opened up for a question-and-answer, where topics like local news, yellow journalism and verification apps like NewsGuard came up.

Perhaps the most important part of the evening came about when Dobbs recognized the state of journalism and the role that it can play in fake news.

“This is coming from a journalist, the quality of reporting, writing and editing has gone downhill.”

The next Vail Symposium event will be a two-part discussion of the growing importance of Asia. The programs will take place at the Donovan Pavillion in Vail at 6 p.m. on Jan. 23 and 24. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.vailsymposium.org.


Arts & Entertainment Editor Nate Day can be reached at 970-748-2932 or nday@vaildaily.com.

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