Elon University / Today in Elon / Amanda Sturgill, Bryan Anderson ’18 to lead Elon NEXT course on ‘Detecting Deception’
The associate professor of journalism and government reporter from North Carolina will co-teach an online, synchronous continuing education course — scheduled to begin Thursday, October 6. — on navigating the media landscape ahead of November’s midterm elections.
Associate Journalism Professor Amanda Sturgill will team up with Elon Bryan Anderson ’18 alumnus, a state government reporter for WRAL, to deliver an upcoming continuing education course examining how the media checks the news and how individuals may become better news consumers before the November midterms.
The online, synchronous course, titled “Detecting Deception: Being a Responsible Information Consumer,” is part of Elon University’s Elon NEXT initiative, a continuing education and professional development program launched in 2019. Detecting Deception course consists of three sessions scheduled on consecutive Thursdays, starting October 6th. The course is $79 and runs from 6-8 p.m. (Note: Elon employees are entitled to one free Elon NEXT course taught by an Elon instructor per academic year.)
Included in the course fee, all registrants will receive a copy of Sturgill’s book, “Detecting Deception: Tools to Fight Fake News.”
Sturgill and Anderson will guide participants through the world of fact-checking and media savvy, using real-life examples of how the media covers important stories. Participants can expect to improve their media literacy skills, with activities designed to help improve their understanding and sense of information. Plus, they’ll hear first-hand stories about the implications of misleading reporting and have the opportunity to dig deeper with a reporter on the front lines of reporting politics.
“I’ve actually been talking to Elon NEXT about it for a few years,” Sturgill said. “When I wrote ‘Detecting Deception’ I hoped it would be relevant outside of academia. My idea was that practicing journalists should be good at identifying bad arguments so they don’t air them, but as the most information is now available in a raw form – like live streams of events on YouTube – the public should also be aware.Since people are ready to spread their messages, journalists have tried to use a thought and deceptive language to get what they want, so audiences need to be prepared.
With November’s midterm elections just weeks away, Sturgill felt it was the perfect time to offer such a course due to election coverage and increased messaging leading up to the vote. Sturgill and Anderson will ask participants to examine real examples of communication, describing ways to identify manipulative or false information.
“We live in a time where sound bites and catchy headlines dominate our media ecosystem, especially when it comes to politics,” Anderson said. “It’s important that people have the tools they need to think skeptically, dig deeper, and learn to seek out the best possible version of the truth. Now, more than ever, it’s important that people refuse to be confused. As the midterm approaches, residents may be inundated with messages. Understanding how to navigate noise is paramount.
Sturgill explained that all news watchers, especially people who want to understand the news and make good decisions about how to participate as a citizen, can benefit from the course. Instructors will explain how journalists decide what to report, how reporters use misleading phrases, and how to inform friends and colleagues to think about the news in an accurate and useful way.
“Whether you want to be a journalist, a better media consumer, or just a more informed citizen, this course should prove useful,” Anderson said. “I would recommend this course to lifelong learners who want to better understand the media landscape and how to live a more informed life. Participants can expect to learn skills that will make them more critical thinkers.
Additionally, all Elon NEXT modules provide Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and learners receive a Certificate of Completion.
This is not the first time that Sturgill and Anderson, his former student, have collaborated. While majoring in journalism and media analysis, Anderson researched and wrote an Elon Journal article examining how education, income, and age relate to newspaper use, and whether education is a predictor of media platform preference. Sturgill was his research mentor.
A few years after graduating, Anderson established himself on the Tar Heel State political scene, working first for the Associated Press and now for WRAL. Previously, he was also a California political reporter for the Sacramento Bee.
“Bryan is a recent graduate, but he already has a wealth of experience covering politics from the local to the national level,” Sturgill said. “He used many newer methods and techniques, including using his second major in media analysis as a reporting tool.”
Anderson noted that he was flattered that his former teacher, whom he credits with “helping me succeed academically,” invited him to co-lead the class. He said he fondly remembers being one of the first media analysts on campus and the impact the innovative program had on him.
“Dr. Sturgill has guided me through several data-intensive research projects, which have proven invaluable in some of the most laborious journalism ventures I have pursued,” he said. “Through my experiences inside and outside of the classroom, I hope I can help participants add a few resources to their tool belt to combat misinformation and become more informed citizens. Skills are especially important in the run-up to a general election that is expected to have major ramifications for the future direction of the state and the country.
In addition to the course prep, Sturgill released a new book, “We Are #ALTGOV: Social Media Resistance from the Inside,” in August, highlighting how and why the Twitter #AltGov movement has challenged official government statements for educate the American public.