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Faculty and students discuss ‘fake news’ on campus

Faculty, administrators and students gathered in the Walsh Library on April 11 to reflect on Pope Francis’ message about fake news and peace in journalism for the upcoming World Communications Day in May. Msgr. Dennis Mahon and Dr. Ki Joo Choi were the featured speakers of the event that referenced Pope Francis’ message in their respective speeches. [caption id="attachment_22825" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Pope Francis addressed “fake news” on Jan. 24, according to the Vatican’s website as one of the topics discussed at the talk.[/caption] On Jan 24, Pope Francis released his message for the 2018 World Communications Day titled, “‘The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32). Fake news and journalism for peace.” Mahon, a communications faculty member and administrator at Seton Hall, specifically cited the last section of the Pope’s statement that draws from a Franciscan prayer. Mahon stated that the Pope emphasizes the need for dialogue between groups and discernment to balance opinions. “I found Pope Francis’ document very interesting and I hope other people will come to share that interest,” Mahon said. Choi, an associate professor of religion and an ethicist specializing in Catholic and Protestant moral theology and political theory, ethics and morality, based his speech on two questions. He asked what it means to communicate the truth and if telling the truth is an act of love. After his speech, Choi said that his goals of the speech were “to provoke thought.” To ask the hard questions about what fake news is and what it means to communicate the truth and to ask the critical questions. "And hopefully in doing so, we will begin to reaffirm ourselves and the community that we are learners and thinkers,” Choi said. The event is the third of a Speaker’s Series called, “Critical Issues in Information and Education” that is organized by the University Libraries and co-sponsored it with the Institute for Communication and Religion within the College of Communication and the Arts. The event was organized by Dr. John Buschman, the dean of University Libraries. He said in an email that it was logical and natural to host this event at Seton Hall since it is a Catholic university and the Pope has entered the dialogue on fake news with his statement. “I wanted to both clarify what fake news is and why it matters, and to plumb the depths of Francis’ message on a very current topic,” Buschman said. According to Vatican News, World Communications Day is held annually on the Sunday before Pentecost, which is May 13 of this year. The first World Communications Day was held on May 1967 under Pope Paul VI, “who wanted to draw attention to the communications media and the enormous power they have for cultural transformation,” according to Vatican News. Tempest Morrissey, a freshman communication major, admitted that she attended the event to receive extra credit for her class, but she was glad she went. She agrees with the issues expressed in the discussion of the question and answer segment at the end. The audience asked questions regarding whether people even desire the truth and whether Seton Hall tries to teach truth in communication. In addition to the speakers, professors in the audience and the Dean of the College of Communication and the Arts also answered questions from the audience. The professors’ answers emphasized journalism’s history and the importance of examining different perspectives over time. Sarah Yenesel can be reached at


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