UTM’s annual Snider Lecture was held last Thursday, October 3, 2019. This year, the lecture featured CNN reporter Daniel Dale who talked about the importance of fact-checking prominent politicians.
The Snider Lecture was held in Room 110 of the Instructional Centre and the large lecture hall filled up quite quickly as people from all over the Peel region joined together for this year’s talk. The crowd was a diverse group of individuals of all ages. Listening to the excited chatter, it was clear that this lecture was important in answering many questions about fake news and the media. Despite some early technical difficulties, the rest of the talk went smoothly.
Prior to his employment at CNN in June 2019, Dale worked at the Toronto Star for eleven years. He became internationally known for fact-checking politicians and began with the infamous United States president, Donald Trump. Using the social networking website Twitter, Dale avidly corrected and denounced Trump’s blatant lies.
As the Toronto City Hall reporter for the Toronto Star, Dale covered the administration of previous Toronto mayor Rob Ford. During that period, Dale was accused of lurking in Ford’s backyard and taking pedophiliac pictures of Ford’s children. Ford went on national television—and Twitter—to ruthlessly accuse Dale of these actions. The unfounded allegations became an issue for Dale’s now uncertain career and his family. He received hate mail and threats against his well-being. Dale, in true journalistic fashion, wrote an article about the incident titled “Rob Ford is lying about me and it’s vile.” The article was successful in extracting two apologies from the mayor, and following the second written apology, Dale retracted his lawsuit against Ford.
For Dale, the experience was eye-opening. He concluded that journalists often shied away from using the word “lie” to accuse politicians of dishonesty. At most, the phrase “false claim” was generally invoked and through this special treatment by the media, politicians were able to get away with lying to people on a regular basis. Dale wanted to do something to rectify the situation, and thus, his internationally noteworthy documentation of Donald Trump’s lies on Twitter began.
Using Twitter as a platform, Dale tried to correct each and every one of Trump’s lies. The task did become tedious at times. Dale states that Trump will use the same lie over a hundred times. “And I have counted, a hundred times in some cases,” he says. However, Dale emphasizes that journalists must be resilient and denounce the lie a hundred times as well. Although it is hard work and not recognized, he hopes that fact-checking will become a regular part of any news source.
Dale points out that it is not just Donald Trump or the Republicans that must be fact checked, but also the Democrats, senators, Supreme Court judges, and every individual in a position of power. Dale elaborates that articles on fact-checking shouldn’t be buried deep within news outlets. Politicians lying to people should be noteworthy and the public must be informed of such disfavours against public citizens.
“We need to treat misinformation as a health violation,” Dale urges. He explains that once people are exposed to misinformation, it is difficult to eradicate the false data that they have acquired. Most often than not, people won’t even attempt to expand or check the information they received. Fact-checking must become a daily part of everyone’s lives. Before sharing an article or a tweet making some dubious claims, research the information. It only takes a few minutes to become a more-informed citizen.