SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Has social media and the internet changed who can present themselves as a journalist or news organization?
Dr. Ted Carlin, a professor of electronic media at Shippensburg University, says, “Oh yeah, definitely.”
Dr. Carlin teaches a media literacy class at Shippensburg University where he speaks to his students about the role the internet plays in the spread of information.
“It’s often been called the wild west of information and misinformation. So it gets a little scary. My job is to get them to fact check to look at things,” Carlin said.
Community websites, which often times look like local news outlets, are examples of suspicious information online.
“You get down in the story and its done by ‘joe staff writer’ and then oops that’s not a complete sentence, we are missing the noun. They made a mistake copying it,” Carlin said to his class.
Organizations promoting both liberal and conservative viewpoints have hyper-local websites that pull information from other sources, often to push a partisan agenda.
“The difference today is that in the past, if it was radio or television or even a newspaper, you had to put a disclaimer,” Carlin added.
These websites that Carlin is talking about are protected under the First Amendment, but what do his students think about them?
“I found it very interesting, showing us the importance of how these sites can affect our perception of events going on in society,” said Carson Rhodes, a junior at Shippensburg University.
“If they don’t research what they are reading it can be very dangerous. They could spread more false information to other people,” added Kai Broyles, a freshman at Shippensburg University.
Websites like the ones Carlin teaches about in his class could have to post a disclaimer about who they are and what they are doing in the future, but that is ultimately up to Congress.
“I think everybody needs to understand that information is power, and it’s going to be used as power. It might be monetized or it might be politicized. You have to understand that that’s the battleground now for your eyeballs because it’s not just persuasion to buy, it’s persuasion to vote and to think and that’s just how it is now we are in an information society,” Carlin concluded.