Leslie Cockburn Discusses Fake News, Student Responsibility

This past Wednesday, the University Democrats invited Leslie Cockburn to grounds for a discussion of journalism in the era of fake news. 

Over the course of her talk, Cockburn shared her take on fake news as well as insights from her experience working as a journalist covering armed conflicts in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Columbia, and Cambodia. The discussion touched on topics ranging from Reagen-era foreign policy to Kellyanne Conway’s erroneous Bowling Green massacre reference.

Cockburn made clear that, often times, the government actively works to conceal the truth. However, during these times a responsible citizenry will strive toward and act only in accordance with the truth.

“In order to understand what our government is doing, you have to dig deeply like a journalist in order to find the truth buried in the fake news,” said Cockburn.

But in recent years the task has seemed intractable. Fake news has flooded the internet, making it increasingly challenging for Americans to discern legitimate news sources. Complicating the situation even further are recent reports of Russian intervention during in the 2016 election. These reports include, but are not limited to, the use of ads on high profile social media sites like Facebook. 

When asked about what steps she would take to combat government sponsored misinformation, Cockburn, who is currently running to represent Virginia’s 5th congressional district, suggested updating the Freedom of Information Act in order to increase government accountability and transparency.

“One problem in the notion of fake news is that people need to have more access to information,” stated Cockburn, “There’s no way democracy can function without people actually understanding what is going on.”


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