By Justine Sutton
Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Fake news, alternative facts, or just misleading memes—there is so much information coming at us all the time, it’s easy to lose track of what is truly, well… true.
On Wednesday, April 7, AWC-SB members and guests gathered via Zoom for our monthly meeting and an eye-opening presentation by Starshine Roshell, “Truth Decay—The Battle to Prevent Lies and Misinformation from Overwhelming Reality.”
An award-winning journalist and content producer for LinkedIn Learning, Starshine has been named Best Columnist by Santa Barbara Independent readers for 11 years running and has taught journalism at UCSB and Santa Barbara City College. She received the AWC’s national Headliner Award in 2019, and AWC-SB’s Woman of Achievement award in 2011. Starshine once wrote for the Santa Barbara News-Press but in 2006, she resigned with dozens of colleagues over the publisher’s breaches of journalistic ethics. Her most recent book is “Lather, Rage, Repeat: Frank Talk on Night Sweats, Day Drinking & Twitler.”
For her talk, Starshine greeted us ostensibly from the Oval Office, then discussed how Zoom backgrounds like hers regularly blur the truth these days. It’s easy to assume she’s not actually at the White House, but other backgrounds are not as easy to spot as obvious “fakes.”
“This is so relevant to what we are living through right now,” said AWC-SB member Rachel Sarah Thurston. “If you haven’t seen this deep fake of Tom Cruise, it’s really wild to see. I’m afraid this trend towards faking videos is going to be used for nefarious reasons politically around the world in the coming months and years.”
In her informative and engaging talk, Starshine shared such valuable tidbits as the difference between disinformation (false information intentionally spread to cause harm) and misinformation (false information shared without the knowledge that it is false). “Astroturf” is a manufactured political movement designed to look like grassroots activism. Also, apparently lies travel six times faster than the truth, as Mr. Churchill suspected.
“I follow reliable, known news sources on Twitter,” AWC-SB President Lisa Osborn offered. “So it’s not as easy to be faked out.”
Starshine also brought a roap map for finding truth:
- Lateral Reading: If you’re trying to determine how trustworthy a website is, get off it and look for information on it from other sources
- SIFT: Stop—Investigate the Source—Find Better Coverage—Trace Back to Original Context
- Check Your Emotions: It’s easy to get heated, but we will be more successful at rooting out the truth if we keep a level head
When correcting others who share untruths on social media, Starshine urged us to be gentle and collaborative in our approach, ie, “I know there’s a lot of false information out there and we’ve all slipped and shared something that isn’t true without knowing it. Here’s a link I found… ” rather than “Hey, you idiot!”
Equipped with such strategies, it’s hopeful that we can spot the lies we find and move forward with a healthy respect for the truth and where to find it, even if it is slower-moving.
Ahead of Starshine’s presentation, Geri Weis-Corbley was introduced for this month’s AWC-SB Member Spotlight. Geri is the founder and CEO of Good News Network, a website she launched in 1997 after working for 10 years in television news. Now an average of two million people each month get her uplifting news at GNN.org.
Starshine recommends these resources to learn more:
Be Sure to Join Us for:
Starshine Roshell will return for a third-straight year to emcee this event, themed Vision, Voice and Advocacy for a New Generation: Friday, April 30, 12pm
Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind. A talk about clear communication with Sara Caputo, Wednesday, May 12 (Note: This is the 2nd Wednesday of the month rather than our usual first Wednesday). To open the event, Paula Lopez steps into the AWCSB Member Spotlight.
Justine Sutton graduated from UCSB and has adopted Santa Barbara as her hometown. She’s a freelance writer, certified in Weddings and Funerals as a Life-Cycle Celebrant® and is currently training as a voice actor.