Fredonia’s Maytum Convocation Speaker to Explore Fake News, Online Rumors

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Craig Silverman

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SUNY Fredonia

Craig Silverman, a journalist who has examined online rumors, fake news and misinformation for nearly 10 years, will present “Fake News, Real Consequences” as an online Maytum Convocation lecture on Thursday, Sept. 23, at SUNY Fredonia.

“This is a look into the world of online misinformation: who the actors are, the types of misinformation people encounter, what I’ve learned from investigating it for several years – and what every citizen needs to know about how to navigate this world,” Mr. Silverman explained.

Fredonia’s Convocation Committee, in conjunction with Silverman’s talk, is soliciting proposals from members of the campus community who would like to contribute to the exploration of the 2021-2022 Convocation theme, “Finding Truth: Communication in an Age of Misinformation.”

In his talk, Silverman will present mini case studies, share anecdotes from his reporting and back it up with data. He will examine the world of online misinformation, asking who promotes it and what type of misinformation is most commonly shared, and will also offer ways to navigate massive amounts of information and disinformation that are encountered in an increasingly digital world. A question-and-answer session will conclude the presentation.

Silverman covers voting, platforms, disinformation and online manipulation as a reporter with ProPublica, an independent nonprofit news gathering organization that produces investigative journalism. He previously served as a media editor of BuzzFeed News, where he pioneered coverage of digital disinformation and media manipulation.

“As our students and our society increasingly have almost unlimited information at their fingertips, we must emphasize critical thinking skills. The ability to analyze and evaluate information will be key to avoiding disinformation campaigns,” said Department of History Associate Professor Jennifer Hildebrand.

“Through individual disciplines and through interdisciplinary approaches, universities are in an excellent position to prepare our students to navigate the information-rich digital world, and speakers like Silverman allow us to demonstrate to our students how vital these skills are by providing real-world examples,” Dr. Hildebrand, who serves as chair of the Convocation Committee, said.

A series of stories that revealed how Facebook exposes the public to disinformation, fraud and violence earned Silverman a George Polk Award in Journalism, which recognizes journalists who provide critical insight into profound events.

Registration, which is free, for the Zoom lecture can be made online at https://fredonia-edu.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIkduCqrj0jE9IY4__hKstobBVAMxbguHuA

The eight-member Convocation Committee was highly impressed with both the content of Silverman’s presentation and his style. His ability to present in an engaging way was especially important to the committee, Hildebrand noted. “We are confident that those who join us will feel a connection to Silverman and his work,” she added.

“One of the things that convinced the Convocation Committee that he would make an excellent Convocation speaker was the fact that as we studied his credentials and his work, the level of excitement for his visit was just as high among those who were not acquainted with his work as it was among those who follow his reporting,” Hildebrand said.

Silverman was named to the Politico 50 for his work exposing fake news and its effect on American politics and is the recipient of the Carey McWilliams Award from the American Political Science Association, which honors major journalistic contributions that lead to better understanding politics. Silverman’s latest book, “Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech,” received the National Press Club’s Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism.

The Convocation Committee invites academic departments, student groups, campus organizations and individuals to submit proposals to sponsor an event, related to the convocation theme, to be held during 2021-2022 academic year. A solicitation for proposals has been shared with campus groups via email. Virtual presentations and interdisciplinary proposals are encouraged.

Preference will be given to proposals with minimal budget needs that take advantage of abundant talent available on campus and the surrounding area. More information about proposals, such as possible topics, information to include in a proposal, criteria used to evaluate proposals and funding assistance can be obtained from Jennifer Hildebrand via email. Proposals are to be submitted electronically online by Friday, Sept. 3.

The Silverman lecture and supporting events that are a part of Convocation are sponsored by the Maytum Lecture Endowment and the Williams Visiting Professorship Endowment through the Fredonia College Foundation, the President’s Office and the Faculty Student Association.