AUBURN — A Bates College professor advised news readers Thursday night to know the type of media they listen to and to pay attention to their feelings so they can discern what is real and what is fake.

Stephanie Kelley-Romano was the featured speaker at the Auburn Public Library’s media literacy program titled “The Rise of Fake News.” She is a professor of rhetoric, the art of discourse, in which a writer or speaker strives to inform, persuade or motivate particular audiences in specific situations.

She began by explaining how the ideas of Greek philosopher Aristotle were the standard for civic and civil engagement for centuries.

“Aristotle considered rhetoric as a way of discerning all the possible means of persuasion,” Kelley-Romano said, and by using rhetoric, “ideas were ideologically based versus today when they are individually based.”

Technology, media delivery methods, and the insatiable desire for news have transformed reports once grounded on facts and evidence to news delivered via comedic alternative news sources such as Stephen Colbert and “Saturday Night Live,” she said. While such sources are “usually factual,” they are problematic because people “have a tendency to remember the parody instead of the reality.”

She also noted the rise of emotionalism replacing reason-based discourse and a movement away from facts.

“Emotion is the easy, lazy way” of reporting, she said.

Kelley-Romano encouraged people to follow some basic steps toward media literacy:

• “Know what type of media you are consuming.” Go to a website’s home page. Google it; and

• Pay “attention to how you feel. If you get worked up, it’s probably fake news. It’s due diligence. Calm down and pay attention.”

Adult Services Manager Marty Gagnon said the next media literacy program is titled “Where do you get your news?” It will be held at noon Wednesday, Feb. 28.

Participants can share how they get their news, what sources they trust and how they determine what is true and what is not.

On Thursday, March 1, at 6 p.m., the library will show the movie “All the President’s Men,” a film about the Washington Post’s investigative reporting of the Watergate Hotel break-in that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.


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