The Search for Truth in Election 2016
Journalists, campaign advisers and political scholars discussed the truth behind the election rhetoric at a recent forum sponsored by the School of Communication and the American Press Institute
The event, titled, Truth, Lies, and Election 2016, brought experts from various fields to speak about their experiences in investigating and understanding this election season.
“Given the current political climate, where candidates seem to make claim after claim, it’s crucial for journalists to be able to fact-check,” said Don Heider, Dean of the School of Communication. “Hosting this event is part of what I see as our duty in helping working journalists do their job well. It also provided an opportunity for our students to see and learn from some outstanding experts.”
One expert was Andy Shaw, president and CEO of the Better Government Association, who was the keynote speaker. Before joining the BGA, the award-winning journalist spent 37 years covering politics from Springfield to Washington, mainly at ABC-7 Chicago.
“Tax payers and citizens need watchdogs. Our democracy has been hijacked by insiders, and it’s almost undefeatable. It’s a crisis,” Shaw stated.
While stressing that tangible change is incremental in the current state of politics, Shaw discussed his organization’s role in shining a light on corruption and improving Illinois government. Since 2009, the BGA has been responsible for nearly 500 investigations that have resulted in over 100 reforms.
“The BGA is a highly regarded organization. It's a watchdog group that really checks on government,” said SOC Associate Dean John Slania. “We knew that not only would Andy Shaw bring a lot of credibility to the program, but that he’s a very dynamic speaker as well,”
In addition to Shaw’s address, there were panels on various topics, such as the impact of technology on fact-checking and the development of political advertising. With quotes and ideas being disseminated as fast as a click of a button, some voters in today’s culture might become disenchanted trying to differentiate fact from fiction.
Candidates and special interest groups are not exploiting our fears but are exploiting our lack of knowledge, Shaw maintained. The role of journalists is to investigate and then educate the community.
“I generally think that journalism really speaks to the tenants of a Jesuit education. The two strongest pillars of the Jesuit teachings are community engagement and social justice. Journalists are out there in the community uncovering the truth. If you're doing a good job, you're righting wrongs and telling the truth. That all plays into social justice,” Slania said. “This event really helped reinforce to our students everything we are trying to do.”