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Pre-Election B.S. Detection: A Public Forum

  • Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, 6:00–7:30 p.m.
  • College of Humanities and Social Sciences Building, Room 225
  • Indiana University of Pennsylvania

This free public forum presented by faculty members and student organizations in the Journalism and Public Relations Department and the Political Science Department, will discuss the 2016 election as a teachable moment about truth, falsehood and bulls**t.

Associate professors David Chambers, chair of the Political Science Department, and David Loomis, of the Journalism and Public Relations Department, will lead the discussion on Thursday, Nov. 3, 6:00–7:30 p.m., in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Building, Room 225. The public is invited. Attendance vouchers will be issued for those who require them. Light refreshments will be provided.

The event is cosponsored by the IUP chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the IUP Political Science Student Leadership Committee. For more information, contact Chambers at David.Chambers@iup.edu or Loomis at David.Loomis@iup.edu.

One framework for the event is knowledge-based journalism, which aims to deepen news coverage beyond the who, what, where, when, how and why of daily events and, instead, to emphasize the question of “so what?”

Advocates of this reformist kind of journalism say it calls for more informed, more interpretive, and more explanatory reporting than traditional, event-driven and horse-race-focused news coverage that can trivialize or fail to foster public understanding of important and complex public issues.

A selected list of relevant readings for this forum, including fact-checking websites, is posted below:

Selected reading list

Books: 

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age

Sep 6, 2016

by Daniel J. Levitin

Hardcover: 304 pages

Publisher: Dutton (September 6, 2016)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0525955224

ISBN-13: 978-0525955221

True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society

Paperback

March 17, 2008

by Farhad Manjoo (Author)

Why has punditry lately overtaken news? Why do lies seem to linger so long in the cultural subconscious even after they’ve been thoroughly discredited? And why, when more people than ever before are documenting the truth with laptops and digital cameras, does fact-free spin and propaganda seem to work so well? True Enough explores leading controversies of national politics, foreign affairs, science, and business, explaining how Americans have begun to organize themselves into echo chambers that harbor diametrically different facts—not merely opinions—from those of the larger culture.

Paperback: 258 pages

Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (March 17, 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1620458403

ISBN-13: 978-1620458402

On Bullshit

January 30, 2005

By Harry G. Frankfurt

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern. We have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, as Harry Frankfurt writes, "we have no theory."

Frankfurt, one of the world's most influential moral philosophers, attempts to build such a theory here. With his characteristic combination of philosophical acuity, psychological insight, and wry humor, Frankfurt proceeds by exploring how bullshit and the related concept of humbug are distinct from lying. He argues that bullshitters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what is true. In fact, bullshit need not be untrue at all.

Rather, bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant. Frankfurt concludes that although bullshit can take many innocent forms, excessive indulgence in it can eventually undermine the practitioner's capacity to tell the truth in a way that lying does not. Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true. By virtue of this, Frankfurt writes, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

Hardcover: 67 pages

Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1 edition (January 30, 2005)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0691122946

ISBN-13: 978-0691122946

This book is in the IUP library

On Truth

October 31, 2006

By Harry G. Frankfurt

Having outlined a theory of bullshit and falsehood, Harry G. Frankfurt turns to what lies beyond them: the truth, a concept not as obvious as some might expect.

Our culture's devotion to bullshit may seem much stronger than our apparently halfhearted attachment to truth. Some people (professional thinkers) won't even acknowledge "true" and "false" as meaningful categories, and even those who claim to love truth cause the rest of us to wonder whether they, too, aren't simply full of it. Practically speaking, many of us deploy the truth only when absolutely necessary, often finding alternatives to be more saleable, and yet somehow civilization seems to be muddling along. But where are we headed? Is our fast and easy way with the facts actually crippling us? Or is it "all good"? Really, what's the use of truth, anyway?

With the same leavening wit and commonsense wisdom that animates his pathbreaking work On Bullshit, Frankfurt encourages us to take another look at the truth: there may be something there that is perhaps too plain to notice but for which we have a mostly unacknowledged yet deep-seated passion. His book will have sentient beings across America asking, "The truth—why didn't I think of that?"

Hardcover: 112 pages

Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (October 31, 2006)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 030726422X

ISBN-13: 978-0307264220

“On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit”

by Gordon Pennycook of the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, and colleagues, published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2015, pp. 549-563.  

This peer-reviewed research article won the coveted 2016 Ig Nobel Peace Prize for research that makes people laugh and then makes them think. Actual Nobel Prize laureates award the annual Ig Nobel prizes. This year’s ceremony was held Sept. 22 at Harvard University.

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

1985/2005

By Neil Postman

What happens when media and politics become forms of entertainment? In the season of Trump and Hillary, Neil's Postman's essential guide to the modern media is more relevant than ever.

Originally published in 1985, Neil Postman’s groundbreaking polemic about the corrosive effects of television on our politics and public discourse has been hailed as a twenty-first-century book published in the twentieth century. Now, with television joined by more sophisticated electronic media—from the Internet to cell phones to DVDs—it has taken on even greater significance. Amusing Ourselves to Death is a prophetic look at what happens when politics, journalism, education, and even religion become subject to the demands of entertainment. It is also a blueprint for regaining control of our media, so that they can serve our highest goals.

"It's unlikely that Trump has ever read Amusing Ourselves to Death, but his ascent would not have surprised Postman.” -CNN

Paperback: 208 pages

Publisher: Penguin Books; 20 Anv edition (December 27, 2005)

ISBN-10: 014303653X

ISBN-13: 978-0143036531

This book is in the IUP library

Newspaper and magazine articles:

  • Margaret Sullivan, Nov. 5, 2016, “‘Catch and kill’ at National Enquirer gives media one last black eye before election,” The Washington Post, media columnist

Host John Oliver discusses how and why media outlets so often report untrue or incomplete information as science.

Fact-checking websites:

Pennsylvania property-tax reassessment: A public symposium

  • Tuesday, April 19, 2016, 5:00–6:30 p.m.
  • Hadley Union Building, Ohio Room
  • Indiana University of Pennsylvania

At this free public event, experts will discuss Pennsylvania’s property tax and answer audience questions.

This event is cosponsored by the IUP Journalism and Public Relations Department, the IUP Political Science Department, the IUP chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Elizabeth Ray Sweeney Trust Fund.

Outlines of the April 19 public discussion are:

  • Knowledge-based journalism
  • State tax policies in Pennsylvania (compared with neighboring states) and how they impact local taxes
  • Solutions that address adverse impacts
  • Audience Q&A

Knowledge-based journalism—alternately called wisdom journalism or quality journalism—aims to deepen news coverage beyond the who, what, where, when, and why of daily events and, instead, to emphasize the question of “so what?”

Advocates of this reformist kind of journalism say it calls for more informed, more interpretive, and more explanatory reporting than traditional, event-driven news coverage that in its 24/7 rush can fail to foster public understanding of important and complex public issues.

On the important and complex issue of Keystone State property tax policies, opposition is both historic and timely—and occasionally violent, as during the colonial period of Pennsylvania history. Today, opposition is growing again, in part because the state’s political leadership has been unwilling or unable to act on overdue substantive reforms.

Among proposed reforms, for example, is a provision that would require local taxing authorities to revalue real property for tax purposes as frequently as every five years—far more often than Indiana County’s 47 years.

Meanwhile, current public opposition is driven by Pennsylvania’s comparatively high property tax burden. The average American household spends $2,127 on property taxes for a home each year, according to a March 2016 study based on U.S. Census Bureau data; the average Pennsylvania household pays $2,484, or 17 percent more than the national average.

Pennsylvania’s effective real estate tax (millage) rate of 1.51 percent is higher than Hawaii’s lowest-in-the nation rate of .28 percent, according to the March 2016 study. But it is lower than New Jersey’s highest-in-the-nation rate of 2.29 percent.

For more information about the April 19 symposium on Pennsylvania’s property tax, click on the links below:

Panelist Bios:

Pennsylvania state government studies, documents, reform proposals:

Knowledge-based-journalism readings:

Nongovernment conference papers, analyses:

News release

Promotional flier

State and county government officials representing Indiana County—Contact Information

For more information, contact:

David Loomis, PhD
Department of Journalism and Public Relations
Phone: 724 357-4411
E-mail: doloomis@iup.edu

About SPJ

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) is one of the oldest organizations representing journalists in the United States. The national organization debuted in 1909.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s current SPJ chapter received recognition from the national organization in December 2005. The IUP chapter adheres to the national SPJ mission—to promote and defend the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, to encourage high standards and ethical behavior in the practice of journalism, and to promote and support diversity in journalism.

National Society of Professional Journalists

The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry through the daily work of its nearly 10,000 members; works to inspire and educate current and future journalists through professional development; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press through its advocacy efforts.

Chapter goals also include:

  • To facilitate convergence of various mediums on campus and off to help members adapt skills across various news platforms—print, broadcast, Web, and others
  • To develop links between the Journalism Department and other academic disciplines on campus
  • To support campus news media, including the Penn, the primary news source at IUP since 1926
  • To facilitate visits to campus by news professionals who can enrich academic learning by SPJ members and who can foster contacts between SPJ members and professionals in news media
  • To help organize symposiums to address current public issues of concern to the profession and to engage the community in deliberating such issues
  • To elevate the professional standards of local news media and to help recognize and reward good local journalism

SPJ Officers: David Loomis, Advisor

Activities

Annual Fundraiser: “Get Down at the Brown”

Broadcast:

Global Alert

Global Alert is Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s only campus-produced, community-focused, public-affairs news and opinion radio program. Producers think global and act local by airing such controversies as the local debate over logging in White’s Woods, the 250-acre recreational forest near the IUP campus. Global Alert airs every other Sunday morning on WIUP-FM (90.1). It is sponsored and produced by the campus chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The program features live interviews with local newsmakers and citizens. The program is interactive. Live listener phone calls are welcome. Listen to the audio streams at the HawkEye.

Global Alert won the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcaster’s Outstanding Radio Public Affairs Program award in its 2010 Excellence in Broadcasting Competition. Read the entire story.

Indi Week in Review

Indi Week in Review is Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s only campus-produced, community-focused, public-affairs news and opinion radio program. It is sponsored by the campus chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. SPJ student members produce and air the program, which features live interviews with local newsmakers and citizens. The program is interactive—live listener phone calls, e-mails, and instant messages are welcome.

J-Jobs Boot Camp

SPJ Meeting Schedule

SPJ Meeting Minutes

Annual reports

Constitution and Bylaws

Bill Harder Enrichment Fund

The Bill Harder Enrichment Fund is named for the founding president (in 2006) of the current IUP chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Harder proposed and the chapter created a source of money to support chapter members’ expenses for attendance at sponsored conferences or similar events where academic or professional journalism skills can be advanced.

The fund had a balance of $1,957 as of March 12, 2013. The money was raised entirely though SPJ-sponsored benefit concerts held periodically at venues around Indiana, Pa. This fundraising approach was inaugurated by Harder, a professional blues harmonica player.

Applications of two members have been approved and funded to support Melissa Thompson’s fall 2009 attendance at a conference in Washington, D.C., and Kaitlyn Johnson’s participation at a fall 2008 internship event at CNN in Atlanta.

Jake Williams Internship Fund

Established by former IUP SPJ President Jake Williams in 2014, this fund is for journalism students who take unpaid internships in journalism. SPJ officers will review the candidates written requests for financial support. Recipients do not have to be SPJ members, but they must be taking a journalism internship and have either a minor or major in journalism.

Recent Pictures

of SPJ-sponsored events

Links

SPJ sponsors and manages the HawkEye , an online newspaper. The HawkEye publishes investigative stories by IUP journalism students reporting on the Indiana, Pa. community, including IUP.

Join the Society of Professional Journalists IUP Chapter on Facebook and the Journalism and Public Relations Department on Facebook.

National SPJ website

  • Journalism and Public Relations Department
  • Humanities and Social Sciences Building, Room 404
    981 Grant Street
    Indiana, PA 15705
  • Phone: 724-357-4411
  • Office Hours
  • Monday through Friday
  • 7:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
  • 1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.