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Grad’s fake news story inspires real fake news course at Davidson College

Cameron Harris works in his home office in Annapolis, Md., in January. Harris, who graduated from Davidfson College in May, created a fake story about an electrical worker who stumbled upon stacked boxes of ballots marked for Hillary Clinton. The fake story was eventually shared with 6 million people.
Cameron Harris works in his home office in Annapolis, Md., in January. Harris, who graduated from Davidfson College in May, created a fake story about an electrical worker who stumbled upon stacked boxes of ballots marked for Hillary Clinton. The fake story was eventually shared with 6 million people. The New York Times

Beginning Tuesday, Davidson College is offering a free two-week online course on “fake news.”

The course is in response to a recent Davidson College grad’s fake news story during the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton presidential race that went viral. The fake story was eventually shared with 6 million people and brought embarrassment to the college.

After The Times published its story in January about grad Cam Harris and his fake news, Davidson College President Carol Quillen wrote to the school’s faculty to tell them “I hear and share your anger.” After the story was published, Harris was fired from his job as a Maryland legislative aide and apologized on Twitter. “I apologize to those disappointed by my actions, and my wish is that I will be allowed to contribute my informed experience to a larger dialogue about how Americans approach the media, tough issues, and the manner in which we, collectively, will inform our decisions going forward,” Harris said on Twitter.

In its description of the fake news course, the college calls fake news a real problem. “From allegations of election fraud to Pizzagate, fake news saturates our news feeds-- and our national discourse,” the college says. “Some say it has compromised the authority of journalism, others say writing fake news stories has brought them a fistful of money. What do we make of this phenomenon? Why is fake news so prevalent these days? And how should we respond?”

The course will pose questions to scholars, working journalists and media pundits and is part of a broader series from the college called Davidson Now, which seeks “to explore critical issues and engage in honest and courageous conversations.”

Instructors are Amanda Martinez, assistant professor of communication studies and sociology at the college, and Mark Sample, associate professor of digital studies at Davidson.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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