On the evening of Jan. 24, the University of Dallas Business and Entrepreneurship Society hosted a talk by James M. Moroney III, CEO of the Dallas Morning News, titled “Rogue One and Then Some: Trump Triumphant and the Lying Media.”
Held in the Serfay Room in SB Hall and co-sponsored by the Satish and Yasmin Gupta College of Business, the event was well-attended by both students and alumni discussing the complex problem of fake news and the recent election.
Rachel Sullivan, president of the Business and Entrepreneurship Society worked with the Office of Advancement to bring in Moroney.
“As students of this university, we’re trying to be independent thinkers, we’re trying to be critical thinkers,” Sullivan said. “How can you think critically about something if you’re given the wrong information? So what do we do with that? Do we have to research on our own? Can we trust news sources? Can we come to real conclusions about anything if the information we’re given in the first place is inherently wrong or inherently trying to persuade you in a certain way? I think as students of this university that’s especially important, just being able to figure out what’s important, what’s truth and not truth.”
In an effort to approach the question of media credibility, Moroney, a Cistercian alumnus and lifelong Catholic, discussed President Donald Trump’s path to election, his relationship with the media, and the role that fake news has played in the current political landscape.
Moroney attributed Trump’s victory to two factors: first, that the Democratic Party put forth a candidate that “loyal Republicans loathed like Yoda loathed the Dark Side.” Second, that he found a constituency that had no champion: the white, uneducated lower middle class.
By use of the “playbook of the reactionary,” as Moroney called it, Trump was able to contrast the present with the past in a way that made it seem that things were headed in the wrong direction, bringing about the slogan: “Make America Great Again.”
Yet, as Moroney pointed out, facts reveal that the U.S. economy has increased jobs in 75 consecutive months, and that the American economy as a whole is growing. Meanwhile the United States military, which was portrayed by the conservative media as being much depleted, still has the largest budget in the world: three times that of the runner-up, China.
Still, facts are hard to come by in the era of fake news. Moroney’s talk included several example of fake news headlines such as: “Pope Francis shocks world, endorses Donald Trump for President” or “ISIS leader calls for American Muslim voters to support Hillary Clinton.” Both of these headlines came from self-proclaimed fake news sites — yet they were shared across the internet like wildfire.
Despite trends of fake news, Moroney’s greatest concern was a government that tries to discredit all media. Media has held the role of watchdog since the inception of this country. In discrediting all media, people receive their information exclusively from their government. With no one else to verify it, it is possible for the government to say anything.
Moroney concluded with a plea for citizens to let the press be their watchdog. He encouraged treating articles with a healthy skepticism, but ultimately urged those in his audience to be an informed citizen and make informed choices.
Freshman Michelle McDaniel attended the event because she is interested in the challenges facing the field.
“Sometimes things get turned around,” McDaniel said. “Sometimes politicians make it seem like the media is lying or the media will make it seem like someone else is lying. Critical thinking is key whenever vital information is present. Hearing a presentation like this, I think it would make people really take a look at what they’re reading and determine for themselves what’s true, what isn’t true, and work at finding that balance in what they read — figuring out what’s trustworthy, what isn’t, for themselves.”