Princeton professor encourages UVU students to seek the truth in media

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[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.0.47″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.0.48″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.0.47″ parallax=”off” parallax_method=”on”][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.0.74″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat”]The annual Ethics Awareness Week, held by the Center for the Study of Ethics (CSE), took place in the Clarke Building, with this year’s topic being “Truth and Misinformation.” The 19 different events over the course of the week contained talks, workshops and dance performances, with the main attraction being a keynote address by Dr. Julian Zelizer.


Zelizer is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes Professor of History and Public Affairs at  Princeton University and a CNN Contributor. He is known for his analytics regarding current political issues and their consequences for the citizenship on different national and international TV channels. Due to his various researches and experience in this field, his talk was centered around restoring trust in the public sphere.


Director of the CSE, Brian Birch welcomed the audience by explaining the reason  behind the Ethics Awareness Week.


Ethics Awareness Week is a longstanding tradition here at UVU. It was created to expose students to a variety of ethical issues and to help them consider them more deeply and responsibly,” Birch said. “We hope that students walk away with a deeper understanding of civil discourse and its importance in American political culture.”


According to Zelizer, many people not only distrust the media, but are more inclined to follow media outlets that align with their political stances. Issues such as the increase in political polarization, the emergence of new technology and the erosion of the standing of truth in the public realm all contribute to this distrust.


Zelizer highlighted how the internet’s development has made it more difficult to discern whether an article  is from a credible source or just an everyday blog.


“Everyone can throw out anything on Twitter and the readers would believe it. Telling the truth in 2018 is telling the people what they want to hear,”  Zelizer said.


After his address, students participated in a discussion with Zelizer, in which they were allowed to ask various questions. One question was about how to hold  politicians accountable for misinformation.


Zelizer claimed the answer starts with the politicians in office. He stated  that the problem doesn’t lie on the shoulders of the citizens solely, but that the issue also rests on the  politicians that contribute to the misinformation.


“The biggest thing I can say is to vote against someone that perpetually lies. This is where the power of incumbency is a problem, because when you have politicians that perpetually stretch the truth and they suffer no consequences, you know what they’re going to do the next term: continue,” Zelizer said.


Students were impressed by the impact Zelizer had on their current mindset in regards to news consumption.


Daniel Odlngo, a freshman dental hygiene major, said, “It’s crazy how we hear news, and don’t look at it as right or wrong. We just accept it. It’s crazy how we do this. I’m going to look more for facts in my news to see if they’re telling the truth.”


Austin Meline, political science global politics major, further agreed with Zelizer in regards to the need to fact check information .


“As soon as you start reading news media that you agree with, you should start questioning things. I know that it would be hard to admit, ‘Oh, I am wrong’ for many people,” Meline said. “But as soon as you start to read stuff you do not agree with, I think that would help you to expand your mind and the potential for you to find what is real, instead of going further down a rabbit hole.”


Zelizer wanted to ensure young students understand how their creativity can help solve problems.


“Young people, college students, have the best opportunity to do something. You all have the ability to see a problem and think, ‘Hey, it doesn’t have to be this way.’ Instead of thinking about what you can’t do, put energy into thinking what you can do,” said Zelizer.