On Monday, April 2 from 5:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., the Baird Journalism Dinner was held in the Conklin Library. This year’s speaker, Alex Kasprak’ 04, is a writer for Snopes, a website dedicated to investigation and debunking misinformation. The event was attended by faculty, KO News staff, and journalism students, and was opened by KO News Faculty Advisor Catherine Schieffelin. Mr. Kasprak was then introduced by senior Ben Small.
Mr. Kasprak’s powerpoint titled, “How to tell when someone on the internet is lying: debunking pseudoscience and propaganda for snopes.com,” discussed the ins and outs of his investigative work, which ranged from exposing climate change deniers to Islamophobic Facebook scams. His informative stories of investigating explained how he debunks these false claims and why they’re damaging. This included an entertaining story about false climate change studies from Breitbart News, which argued that global warming research is fabricated by climatologists.
Soon after publishing his own articles disproving this on Snopes, Mr. Kasprak was met with an article by the author of the false studies, titled “Delingpole: An Impertinent Pup from Snopes Tried to Fact-Check Me on Global Warming. Here’s My Reply…”
Freshman journalism student Olivia Reynolds said that she found it interesting to see the type of rebuttal journalists receive. “I thought it was interesting to learn about the different types of journalism and to see how he works and the processes that he goes through,” she said.
Mr. Kasprak also spoke about his work in exposing an Islamophobic Facebook hoax, where a group of people would go to housing developments and create videos claiming that Americans living in the houses were being pushed out to make space for Syrian refugees. These hateful and entirely false videos are part of what Mr. Kasprak said makes his job as a fact-checker so important.
The Baird Journalism Dinner was founded in 1992 to honor English teacher Warren Baird. The speakers are always alumni, and Ms. Schieffelin said that she believes this makes the dinner an even more valuable experience for students interested in journalism. “I just think it’s really valuable to hear someone’s story, someone who came from KO, and just the various paths that students take after graduation,” she said.
Mr. Kasprak is a prime example of this, as he had been passionate about a variety of topics before discovering journalism, including art, history, and geology. Ms. Schieffelin also enjoyed how relevant Mr. Kasprak’s work in investigative journalism is in our world today. “I think it’s an incredibly important thing to focus on fact-checking in today’s media climate, so I think it was a really valuable talk,” she said.
She said she also hopes that students walk away with more knowledge of journalism careers in general. “I think it’s just cool to see the different paths that students can take and also just to see the different range of things you can do in journalism,” she said. “And hopefully, be inspired a little bit.”