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In Reality

Author: New Thinking

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“In Reality” debunks fake news and elevates the innovative researchers, entrepreneurs, journalists and policymakers who are fighting back against toxic misinformation. Co-hosts Joan Donovan, research director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media and Public Policy, and Eric Schurenberg, an award-winning journalist and former CEO of Fast Company, engage guests in enlightening conversations about solutions to this scourge and the path back to a shared reality. 

48 Episodes
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Any institution that aspires to get at the truth needs a process for testing what it believes to be true. Central to the judicial system, for example, are lawyers challenging their opponents’ arguments. In science, claims must be peer-reviewed, and experiments have to be replicated. But in politics and culture, any kind of rule-based, civil testing of facts is a fading art. Debates are hostile, ideologies harden, and we kick up a lot of dust, in which the pursuit of truth gets lost. But ...
The political landscape in the US has fragmented into a handful of beliefs, the adherents to which have less and less in common, other than a profound inability to comprehend others’ beliefs. This, unfortunately, is not news. In a fascinating new book, today’s guest attempts to pierce the incomprehensibility cloak. The guest is Jason Blakely, an associate professor of political science at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California and the book is Lost in Ideology. In it, Jason explains the i...
The guests who come on In Reality come prepared to talk about big issues. Truth, polarization, the information ecosystem: these are not exactly niche issues. Today’s guest though, may have the biggest embrace of anyone I’ve had on the show... You may know Frank McCourt as the billionaire real estate magnate and owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. However, for the past few years he has turned his focus to running the non-profit Project Liberty, the enormously ambitious goal of whic...
To figure out what’s true and what’s not in today’s chaotic, fragmented, contradictory information environment, all of us news consumers have to think like journalists: is that story I’m seeing backed by evidence, is the headline fair, is the coverage biased? Well, we could do worse than to think like the journalist who is today’s guest.Until his retirement in February 2021, Martin Baron was the editor of the WashingtonPost, following remarkable stints leading the Boston Globe and Miami Heral...
For decades, America’s foreign adversaries have used disinformation to undermine American democracy, to sow division and create confusion about what is even true. But who needs foreign adversaries when so many Americans, for whatever reason, have embraced the same tactics and same apparent goal? Today’s guest, Barbara McQuade, is a professor at University of Michigan Law School who previously served as vice chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee and co-chaired its Terrorism and Na...
It was eight years ago, when Brexit and the US Presidential election showed how misinformation enables real-world damage. Since then, researchers, content managers, regulators, journalists and others sprang into action to counter misinformation and now misinformation pollutions is even worse. Why? Claire Wardle has some ideas. She’s been in the fight since the beginning. In 2015, she was the founder of the pioneering research and training organization, First Draft News. She’s led teams on mis...
Welcome to In Reality, the podcast about truth, disinformation and the media with Eric Schurenberg, a long time journalist and media executive, now the founder of the Alliance for Trust in Media. There are two ways to fight misinformation: One is to debunk falsehoods after they have surfaced. The other is to help create media literate news audiences, who can recognize false claims before they take root. Debunking, necessary though it is, inevitably hands the initiative to manipulators and pro...
Journalism’s problems today are legion: Collapsing business models, attacks from political partisans, divisions in the profession over basic questions like objectivity. But none of these is solvable until newsrooms address their troubled relationship with audiences: Too many people don’t believe journalists work in their interest. Many avoid news because they find it too pugilistic, too downbeat. Today’s guest has spent the past decade and more addressing the all too real negativity bias in t...
A lot of people, Eric included, are working to figure out what exactly happened to facts, trust in institutions like science and the news, and to the shared reality we used to enjoy in this country. There is no shortage of research about the depth of the problem but very little about what really might reverse it. Which is where today’s guest comes in. Talia Stroud is the director of the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas. More than 10 years ago, she was one of the first to...
In talking about the news today, it’s tempting to focus on the bad actors, the amplifiers of nonsense and the peddlers of outrage. It’s worth remembering, though, they’re not the only players. There are journalists who adhere to standards and have managed to thrive despite the seismic disruption of the industry. Today’s guest is one of those. Alan Murray, the CEO of Fortune media, was a long-time Washington columnist for the Wall Street Journal before becoming editor and eventually CEO ...
Disinformation is good business. Spreading lies and outrage tends to be profitable, thanks to programmatic advertising, which cares only about traffic, not truth, and funding by state actors like Russia, which pour money into narratives that undermine democracies. Supporting truth is a tougher commercial prospect, but today’s guest is giving it a credible run. Gordon Crovitz is the co-founder, with Steven Brill, of NewsGuard - a five-year-old for-profit enterprise that rates news sites for ed...
According to a Pew Research survey in 2021, almost three quarters of Americans consider Fox News to be part of the mainstream media, along with familiar brands like ABC News and the Wall Street Journal. That’s interesting because Fox is different in many ways. It’s not only easily the most profitable cable news network and the only one trusted by most conservatives; it is also the only one whose leaders admitted, under oath, that the newsroom deliberately promoted a theory they knew to be fal...
The information environment today has two broad problems: a supply side problem and a demand side problem. On the supply side, it is ridiculously easy for anyone to spread propaganda or outrage or lies online, and on the demand side, it is hard for audiences to distinguish manipulation from fact-based news.Today’s guest, Sally Lehrman, aims to tackle the problem from both sides of the ledger. She’s a long-time journalist and founder of the Trust Project, an organization that evaluates n...
Welcome to In Reality, the podcast about truth, disinformation and the media. I’m Eric Schurenberg, a long time journalist and media executive, now the executive director of the Alliance for Trust in Media. An awful lot of the heat in today’s polarized political landscape arises from vastly different interpretations of history. In the US, we fight over how to deal with slavery in our history books. Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan is a shout-out to a historical golden era that m...
A lot of academic researchers, journalists, NGOs, even a few tech firms--are working on the issue of disinformation. Some people are opposed to this work, especially on the political right, and have given this disparate group the ominous collective nickname of disinformation industrial complex, as if it were a monolith devoted single-mindedly to censoring unpopular voices. The fact is, this is no monolith. The fragmented nature of the fight against disinformation weakens the effort, and ...
One reason that falsehoods flourish online is that major advertisers fund them—but usually unwittingly. The opaque nature of automated online ad delivery means that advertisers don’t actually know where most of their digital ads appear. On a high-quality news site? Maybe. On a trashy clickbait farm? The ad-tech doesn’t care. Today’s In Reality guests argue that quality journalism needs a more transparent market to prosper, that’s what they aim to provide. Vanessa Otero is an IP attorney turne...
You can blame today’s chaotic information environment on many factors: digital inequality and the rise of populism, attention hijacking by social media, and the collapse of mainstream media business models. Wherever you point the finger, digital technology was either the root cause or an accelerant. Which is why today’s guest is particularly worth listening to. In a journalism career that has spanned 27 years, so far, Gideon Lichfield has been shaping our understanding of technology and...
Welcome to In Reality, the podcast about truth, disinformation and the media. I’m Eric Schurenberg, a longtime journalist, now executive director of the Alliance for Trust in Media.One of my long-held assumptions is that everyone seeks the truth. They may be derailed in that quest by false information, but the ultimate goal is factuality. Today’s guest begs to differ. Dannagal Goldthwaite Young is Professor of Communication and Political Science at the University of Delaware, a frequent voice...
When I talk to people about the mission of In Reality, I frequently am told, “Media is so corrupt. Why do you bother.” In some circles, it seems that hating professional media is just a reflex, like saying “Bless you” when someone sneezes. Nothing personal.Today’s guest is one of the best living rebuttals I can think of to this kind of blanket condemnation of the media. He is Nick Thompson, the CEO of The Atlantic and one of journalism’s most distinguished practitioners. Before The Atla...
In politics, you can understand why some voters align themselves with claims that don’t bear up under scrutiny. In politics, there are other forces at work than factuality, like tribal identity and moral narratives. But science is different—or ought to be. And yet trust in science has stumbled, along with media and government. So… why? And what’s the fix? Today, I’ll take that up with two eminent advocates of scientific truth: Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, and ...
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