Just the Facts

Fighting fake news with real, scholarly journalism

With the sheer volume of information people have exposure to today thanks to the advent of digital technology, it can be hard to weed through legitimate and illegitimate information available on the Internet.

Two SSHRC-funded researchers are working to counter this. Mary Lynn Young and Alfred Hermida are journalism professors at The University of British Columbia. With a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant, they are preparing the spring 2017 launch of The Conversation Canada, a website that will feature a variety of articles written by academics from universities across Canada.

“As journalist-scholars, we see ourselves as bridging the worlds of academics and journalism. This is what The Conversation model offers—a proven way to increase the visibility of scholars by working in collaboration with journalists to provide insightful, independent and informed analysis and commentary on the key issues facing Canadians today,” says Young.

“It offers a new form of journalism, written by academics, edited by journalists and free to the public. Everything is available to republish under Creative Commons, and Canadian publications, National Post and Macleans, have already published articles from the other five editions of The Conversation,” says Hermida.

The Conversation Canada is the latest offshoot of The Conversation website that was launched in Australia in 2011 by a journalist in a newsroom based at the University of Melbourne. It has since grown to a “global knowledge project,” with United Kingdom, United States, France and Africa editions of the website. It carries no advertising, and the content is free to republish under the Creative Commons, a global not-for-profit organization that enables sharing and reuse of content through free licences.

“For universities, our aim for The Conversation Canada is to transform knowledge translation in the higher education sector. The project will build the capacity for more academics to contribute directly to public conversations through The Conversation network of respected local, national and global media re-publishers. Their participation adds to the plurality of voices in the media, and increases access to and the visibility of the excellent research occurring at Canadian universities,” according to Young.

And while they acknowledge that, as with all new technology, social media has benefits and potential pitfalls, “For The Conversation Canada, social media offers a way to reach out to communities of interest, to foster debate and engage with Canadians on the key issues of the day.”