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Fake News

Unity Temple on the Plaza

Fake News

Unity Temple on the Plaza

At this event our expert panelists talked about the prevalence and purveyors of fake news, a phenomenon that has dominated headlines since Donald Trump was elected president. Watch the video and view event photos below!

A Truman Series event presented by American Public Square, the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, the Truman Library Institute, and the Harry S. Truman Center at UMKC.


Mark Alford co-anchors FOX 4 News at 4:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. with Abby Eden. As morning anchor for the Fox 4 Morning show since 1998, Alford has logged more than 20,000 hours on air. He is also a real estate agent and owns a custom clothing company. In his spare time Mark enjoys riding Harley Davidson motorcycles with his wife, Leslie, and vacationing with his children.

Colleen McCain Nelson is vice president and editorial page editor of The Kansas City Star. She joined The Star in December 2016 after working as a White House Correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and as an editorial writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News.

Nelson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a former political reporter who has chronicled three presidential campaigns. In 2016, she crisscrossed the country with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders. She wrote about the policies, politics, and personalities in President Barack Obama’s administration.

At The Dallas Morning News she wrote about local, state, and national politics, first as a reporter and later as an editorial writer and columnist. In 2010, Ms. Nelson and two of her colleagues were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing for a series of editorials that condemned the stark economic and social disparity separating Dallas’s thriving northern half and struggling southern half.

Kevin Madden is a nationally recognized communications strategist, having served as a senior counselor to some of the nation’s top leaders in both the public and private sectors over the last 15 years.

Kevin has designed and managed some of the most high profile communications campaigns in the country, ranging from presidential cabinet-level departments to public advocacy and issue campaigns for business coalitions, non-profit organizations and Fortune 500 companies.

Kevin’s work on presidential campaigns and in congressional leadership has also helped him develop a reputation as a highly effective and sought-after crisis communications manager.

Kevin served as a senior advisor to and spokesman for Governor Mitt Romney’s 2012 and 2008 presidential campaigns. Prior to joining Governor Romney’s campaign, Mr. Madden served as Press Secretary to then-House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH). Before his work as a top leadership aide on Capitol Hill, Mr. Madden served as the Department of Justice’s national spokesman on issues ranging from national security to litigation before the federal courts.

During the 2004 presidential campaign cycle, Mr. Madden served as a Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman for regional, national and international news organizations.

Kevin serves on the advisory board of Georgetown University’s Institute for Politics and Public Service and on the Board of Directors for the Bipartisan Policy Center Advocacy Network.

Margaret Talev is White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, covering U.S. politics and foreign policy. She serves on the boards of the White House Correspondents’ Association and the Washington Press Club Foundation.

Margaret has covered Barack Obama since 2007, when he began his presidential campaign. She previously covered Congress, California and Florida politics and has reported for the Los Angeles Times, McClatchy Newspapers, the Sacramento Bee and the Tampa Tribune. In 2008, she won the Scripps Howard Raymond Clapper Memorial Award as part of a three-member team that exposed the Bush administration’s politicization of the Justice Department. She was part of a reporting team whose breaking news coverage of the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 earned a finalist spot for the Pulitzer in 2001.

Margaret is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park. She is a mom and a stepmom, wine and food enthusiast, avid runner, proud of her Bulgarian heritage and in her free time is chipping away at her first novel.


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“Fake news” is much more than false news stories. Some stories may have a nugget of truth, but lack any contextualizing details. They may not include any verifiable facts or sources. Some stories may include basic verifiable facts, but are written using language that is deliberately inflammatory, leaves out pertinent details or only presents one viewpoint. “Fake news” exists within a larger ecosystem of mis- and disinformation.

Misinformation is false or inaccurate information that is mistakenly or inadvertently created or spread; the intent is not to deceive. Disinformation is false information that is deliberately created and spread “in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth” Source

fake news
noun False stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke. Source

noun False information deliberately and often covertly spread in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth. Source



    Republicans who say they have trust in the media has plummeted to 14% in 2016 from 32% in 2015.

    Democrats’ trust in the media has declined from 55% in 2015 to 51% in 2016.

    Independents’ trust in the media has declined from 33% in 2015 to 30% in 2016. Source

    Older Americans are more likely than younger Americans to say they trust the media, but trust declined among both age groups in 2016.

    • 26% of those aged 18 to 49 (down from 36% in 2015) say they have a “great deal or fair amount” of trust in the media in 2016.
    • 38% of those aged 50 and older (down from 45% in 2015) say they have a “great deal or fair amount” of trust in the media in 2016.

    Stanford University: A common finding in a survey of literature on rumors, conspiracy theories, and factual beliefs is that partisan attachment is an important predictor of beliefs. For example, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to believe that President Obama was born outside the United States, and Democrats are more likely than Republicans to believe that President Bush was complicit in the 9/11 attacks. Source (page 228-9)

    As of 2017, 93% of Americans say they receive news online. Source

    • 36% use a website or app
    • 62% use social media Source (page 223)
    • 55% of smartphone users receive news alerts on their devices.

    Interest in national news has increased in Democrats from 33% in 2016 to 49% in 2017 and in Independents from 32% in 2016 to 35% in 2017. (Interest in national news has not increased or decreased among Republicans). Source

    In 2018, 78% of Americans say it is never acceptable for a news organization to favor one political party over others when reporting the news. Source

    In 2017, 89% of Democrats say news media criticism keeps leaders in line as the “watchdog role,” while only 42% of Republicans say the same. This percentage gap is the largest recorded between Republicans and Democrats since data collection on this topic began in 1985. Source




    In 2016, viewership for network local affiliate news stations (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) declined in key time slots – morning, early evening and late night.

    Since 2007, the average audience for late night newscasts has declined 31%, while morning audience declined 12% and early evening audience fell 19%. Local TV noon and 7 p.m. news viewership also declined.


    Combined average viewership for the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts remained stable, down 1% in 2016, staying at about 24 million.


    The estimated total U.S. daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) in 2016 was 35 million for weekday and 38 million for Sunday, both of which fell 8% over the previous year. Declines were highest in print circulation: Weekday print circulation decreased 10% and Sunday circulation decreased 9%.

    Beyond daily newspapers, many U.S. cities have what are known as “alt-weekly” papers – weekly newspapers, generally distributed for free, which put a heavy focus on arts and culture. Average circulation for the top 20 U.S. alt-weekly papers is just over 61,000, a 6% decline from 2015.


    In the U.S., roughly nine-in-ten adults (93%) get news online (either via mobile or desktop), and the online space has become a host for the digital homes of both legacy news outlets and new, “born on the web” news outlets.


    The top 20 NPR-affiliated public radio stations (by listenership) had on average a total weekly listenership of about 10 million in 2016, up from about 9 million in 2015.


    (Source, p. 10-11)





    In 2016, 64% of U.S. adults say fabricated news stories cause “a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events.”

    23% of Americans say they have shared a made-up news story, whether knowingly or not.

    45% of U.S. adults say government, politicians and elected officials bear a great deal of responsibility for preventing made-up stories. Source

    Although Americans rely heavily on social media for their news, only about 5% of U.S. adults had a lot of trust in the information they get there in 2017. Source

    There are 149 “fact checking” projects in 53 countries in 2018; up from 114 in 2017. Source

    In 2017, 262 journalists around the world were jailed for their work with the most being in Turkey, China, and Egypt. Source



    On Twitter, supporters of Trump shared 95% of the fake news sites and accounted for 55% of fake news traffic in a survey sample done by the Computational Propaganda Research Project on the 2016 Presidential Election. (Other kinds of audiences shared content from these junk news sources, but at much lower levels.)

    On Facebook, conservative groups shared 91% of the junk news sites on the watch list, and accounted for 58% of junk news traffic in the sample survey. This means that on average, political groups on Twitter share 54% of the junk news watch list and groups of Facebook users share 33%. Source (page 5)

    27.4% of Americans (65 million) age 18 or older visited an article on a pro-Trump or pro-Clinton fake news website during the final weeks of the 2016 election campaign. Source

    Since the 2016 election, President Trump has used the phrase “fake news” in tweets and speeches 362 times and the word “fake” 469 times. (As of March 12, 2018) Source