Today’s era of “fake news” and alternative facts is undermining the character, credibility, and reputation of journalists and reporters everywhere. But all of that can change, an expert has argued if ethically-minded, skilled individuals enter the field.
“If you take a look at the news industry today, you see an unhealthy industry,” said Dr. Stuart Schwartz, associate dean of the School of Communication and Digital Content at Liberty University. “The fact that there is fake news out there is unhealthy. From the organizational side in journalism, unhealthiness is when so many media outlets think the same way and say the same things without digging, checking, and doing all the basics of what good journalism is. I think that’s a sign of an unhealthy industry.”
Far too many colleges and universities “propagandize,” he said, explaining that fake news happens because of fake educators.
“If you bring the wrong people in, it poisons the organization,” Dr. Schwartz cautioned. “You lose your brand, you lose your story. When unethical people are put in positions of leadership, you lose the integrity of your product; you lose sight of where you’re going and what your goals are.”
With over thirty years of experience in media and consumer merchandising organizations, Dr. Schwartz is an expert on topics associated with interactive and social media, media bias,
and the use of technology in digital marketing and consumer merchandising. He combines his professional experience and research interests into a foundation for his strategic communication courses at Liberty University, equipping students for success in the workplace.
“We want our students to be competent — we want them to have the best skills, and that is because if you teach them the better skills and give the good education that connects them to the market in their field...they get out of here with a sense of confidence; the temptation to cheat...through life is removed,” he said.
Liberty’s School of Communication and Digital Content also focuses on ensuring students grasp the soft skills — integrity, trustworthiness, and character — needed to prepare them for today’s job market.
“It’s really important for us to focus on soft skills,” Dr. Schwartz said. “Anyone can teach someone how to operate a camera, and anyone can teach someone how to tell a story and edit. But what you don’t learn is the integrity of, say, ‘I may tell a story, but is it a true story? Does it work?’ We want to ensure a sense of integrity.”
Upon entering the workforce, Liberty graduates will hopefully apply the Christian principles of honesty, integrity, and hard work to whatever field they enter, from advertising and public relations to broadcast and print journalism. This, Dr. Schwartz said, makes them invaluable employees.
“I truly believe that an employer should look for someone who has at least a modicum of faith as we define it at Liberty,” he said. “They should be looking for characteristics that go on along with faith, such as a focus on helping others and other-directedness. This helps them succeed because they’re naturally focused toward a target or market or audience rather than on themselves.”
“One of the most wonderful compliments you can give an employee is, ‘I just interviewed them and they’re going to wear well in the long run,’” he continued. “I do believe that integrity, an ability to put yourself in the shoes of others and get rid of your ego for a little while, is part of the outcome of very, very good education and Christian faith. It works so beautifully in so many organizations that have to rely on attracting others.”
In a society where just 24 percent of Americans say they believe the news media in general are “moral,” Liberty’s School of Communication and Digital Content is producing skilled professionals who are defined by their integrity and grounded in their Christian faith.
“One of the best ways to live your faith is to show the classic character traits from the Bible: Be patient, try to be understanding. Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal. God doesn’t want it that way. You do that, and sooner or later your career is going to stall, and you’re going to stall as an individual,” said Dr. Schwartz.
“You’re going to make mistakes,” he added. “But if you can do it right more times than not and start increasing that each time by a fraction, you’re going to have an awesome career, and you’re going to enjoy your life.”