Journalists address alt-facts

 (Photo by Rebecca Hardcastle/The Press)

(Photo by Rebecca Hardcastle/The Press)

A Banff conference aims to take on fake news by educating the public on finding trustworthy news sources.

“I hope the general public feels more informed and understands more about how to distinguish reporting that you can trust,” said Patti Sonntag, a managing editor in the New York Times news division, who organized the event along with Robert Cribb of The Toronto Star.

Organizers of The Democracy Project summit that took place at the Banff Centre on Friday, Oct. 20 to Sunday, Oct. 22 hoped that the free event empowered people to make smart decisions when choosing what to read online.

According to their website, The Democracy Project aims to, “discuss practical next steps in the critical conversation around media and democracy.”

The Democracy Project was part of a five-day intensive on investigative journalism, also organized by Sonntag and Cribb.

Sonntag, from Fernie, B.C., said that she felt the need to put together the event because she was worried about the state of small town newspapers.

“I was concerned about the lack of staff at small town papers and lack of support and resources for papers that I’ve cared about for a long time,” said Sonntag.

Eighteen carefully chosen panelists were scheduled to speak during the summit.

Sonntag said Cribb and she thought about who could contribute their professional experience and expertise to each discussion.

“I’m kind of astonished at the really deep public and professional response,” said Sonntag. “It’s unexpected, which is great.”

Sonia Perna, a writing instructor for the SAIT Journalism program, said she thinks The Democracy Project summit is important for all people to attend.

“Investigative journalism is especially crucial nowadays,” said Perna. “We need to be able to have in-depth reporting on important issues that may only get a sound bite otherwise.”

Perna thinks social media, and the Internet in general influence the way society sees journalism today.

“Fake news is more prevalent because of social media, and people have a lot of information that they need to sort through,” said Perna.

“Journalists need to be even more careful to check their facts and sources.”

Perna said that she believes the public should be fighting for newspapers because they are valuable to society.

“They give a voice to important stories and provide credible information by credible reporters.”

The Democracy Project panels, with the exception of the keynote speaker, was free for the public to attend.

Journalists, writers and members of the general public were invited to attend in an effort to encourage people to learn about the steps that can be taken to find trustworthy news sources.

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