Left to right: inewsource reporter Jennifer Bowman, Ivy Lee from the Texas Civil Rights Project and San Diego Union-Tribune caregiver reporter Lauren J. Mapp. (Photos from inewsource and Ivy Lee)

A webinar inewsource reporter Jennifer Bowman moderated Wednesday showed internet users how to avoid disinformation during a time when that task has become increasingly difficult.

“So much disinformation and how to fight it comes from people’s own news diets,” Bowman said during the Disinfecting Disinformation program. “Some rely on what happens to come through their feeds, some might have their favorite news sources and they don’t go further than that, and some people only seek things that confirm what they already believe.”

The event featured panelists Ivy Lee from the Texas Civil Rights Project and Lauren J. Mapp, a San Diego Union-Tribune reporter and former inewsource intern. San Diego State University School of Journalism and Media Studies hosted the webinar along with other partners organizations. This was the third installment in a five-part series on disinformation that is running in the month before the Nov. 3 election.

The two panelists shared tips on how to ensure you’re consuming reliable information. A big part of that has to do with being savvy about social media usage, they said.

Getting news from memes rather than news stories is one of the more obvious examples, Mapp said, because memes “don’t get fact-checked.”

There are also ways to optimize social media algorithms to stop them from showing untrustworthy sources of news, Lee said. 

“Interact more with articles from sites that you find more trustworthy,” Lee said, as that will indicate to the algorithm what kind of information to feature on your feed.

Mapp said social media users can report unfactual information to the platform, which will prevent that content from making it onto other people’s feeds.

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Bowman then shifted the conversation away from news consumers and onto the media itself, citing a Pew Research Center poll that found 44% of Americans believe a desire to mislead the public is a major factor behind significant mistakes in news reporting.

“We know that we in the news don’t always get it right,” she said.

The consolidation of news media plays a big role in public distrust, Lee said, reminding reporters that this has made some reporting feel increasingly disconnected from the communities being covered. This can be seen, she said, in brazen headlines written to increase clicks rather than accurately represent the story.

Lee and Mapp agreed that increasing newsroom diversity at all levels could be part of the answer.

“Newsrooms are trying, but they’re diversifying from the bottom up,” Lee said, reminding listeners that hiring “token” reporters of color is not enough.

Mapp said having representative newsrooms will, in turn, help to create more meaningful relationships with the community.

“People want to know that their story is being fairly told, and to tell that fairly you need to build trust with those communities,” Mapp said.

The Disinfecting Disinformation Webinar Series was hosted in collaboration with the Glen M. Broom Center for Professional Development in Public Relations, The San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego Public Library, inewsource, PRSA San Diego/Imperial Counties and the San Diego Association of Black Journalists.

To watch a recording of any of the previous webinars or register for either of the remaining two, go to the Broom Center webpage.

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Type of Content

Explainer: Provides context or background, definition and detail on a specific topic.

Bella Ross was a web producer and social media specialist for inewsource, where she ran the website, social media accounts and produces newsletters. She is also a former inewsource intern. Ross holds two degrees from San Diego State University in journalism and political science, and has interned and...