Joel Achenbach, acclaimed science writer for the Washington Post, delivered the 25th annual Alfred and Julia Hill Lecture, “Navigating the Era of Fake News, Pseudoscience, and Bunk,” on April 4, 2017.
“In our rapidly changing world of communications, everyone has become a journalist and the phenomenon of ‘fake news’ is pervasive,” said Mark Littmann, who holds the Julia G. and Alfred G. Hill Chair of Excellence in Science, Technology, and Medical Writing in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media. “Deciphering the truth has never been more difficult for news consumers.”
Achenbach joined the staff of the Washington Post in 1990. In 2005, he began writing the Post’s first blog, Achenblog, now the longest-running blog of any major newspaper in America. He has also written six books, two based on his enormously popular Washington Post column “Why Things Are,” explaining, often humorously, the science of everyday life.
Achenbach’s other popular science books examine the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, claims that aliens from outer space are visiting Earth, and George Washington’s plans to expand the United States westward.
“As we try to make sense of this world—new technologies, exotic drugs, novel hazards—we have to find a way to tell good information from bad information,” said Achenbach. “This has gotten harder in the age of the internet and social media in which disinformation easily becomes viral.”
The Hill Lecture brings distinguished science journalists to campus to share their thoughts on science, society, and the mass media. The lecture series is made possible by an endowment created by Tom Hill and Mary Frances Hill Holton in honor of their parents, Alfred and Julia Hill, founders of the Oak Ridger. The Hill family’s endowment of the lecture series was a gift to the UT School of Journalism and Electronic Media in the College of Communication and Information.
Video of this year’s lecture can be found here.