By: Emily Bloch, VP of Programs
Just because journalists report the news, doesn’t mean they always know what’s real and what’s fake.
Neither seasoned professionals nor non-media players could tell the difference during SPJ Florida’s inaugural Fake News Game Show on March 30 in Fort Lauderdale.
The trivia-style game featured two rounds of 15 questions each, where teams of two to four players duked it out to decide if stories were the real deal. All the stories featured were real fake news stories — none of them were made up for the game.
“Media competency and literacy is so vital to society right now, but if we as journalists can’t spot fake news, how can we expect our readers and viewers to?” asked SPJ Florida President Dori Zinn. “This game was for everyone, not just journalists, and it was a perfect test to see who among us is best at spotting alternative facts.”
This competition challenged roughy 35-40 participants to identify factors that make a story credible. One round made players decide if the story was real or fake, while the second round put two similar stories next to each other and players had to spot the fake. At the end of both rounds, past president and show host Brandon Ballenger revealed the answers to all questions, while sharing tips to spot fake news and learn how to tell if a media outlet is credible.
“I learned that I really am good at telling what’s real and fake, but I’m not perfect,” Laura Wilansky, a local proofreader whose team won third place, said. “There are a lot of journalists that we can trust, but we have to figure out which ones those are.”
It all went down at Undergrounds Coffeehaus in Fort Lauderdale, which offered tater tots in different flavors like garlic, cajun, and taco seasoning. The shop teamed up with SPJ Florida to craft specially themed drink specials for the night, like the Sean Spicey Latte — a take on the chai tea latte, and White Russian Latte — a variation of a white chocolate mocha latte.
Aaron Honeycutt is a regular at Undergrounds. He found out about the event through the staff when he came in that night. He’s not a journalist, but formed a team anyway and tried his hand.
“I learned about the Associated Press and what AP in parenthesis before a story means,” Honeycutt said afterwards. “It will help tell me if a story is credible in the future.”
Honeycutt wasn’t the only non-journalist there. Two of the eight competing teams were made up of non-media players.
In the end, Team Sad — comprised of Mike D’Oliveira, Meghan Miller and Brendon Lies — took first place. The team won tickets to see Angela Duckworth’s upcoming TED Talk at the Broward Center of Performing Arts.
Even though no team got a perfect score, the first, second and third place winning teams were just a point away from each other. No one walked out empty handed, though. Everyone took home their own pocket constitution, courtesy of SPJ Florida.
“The entire room was cracking jokes and doing hilarious impersonations,” Krislyn Placide, a section editor with Forum Publishing Group, said. “The competition was heavily stacked. Get a room full of journalists together and things get competitive.”
Zinn hopes other groups, both journalists and non-journalists, can recreate the game show wherever they live.
“Education doesn’t just happen in a classroom,” Zinn said. “Sometimes it can happen in a coffee shop with a trivia game.”
If you’re interested in hosting your own Fake News Game Show, email SPJ Florida President Dori Zinn.