San Francisco State University launches The Fake News Watch

Kaylee Fagan spent years putting off the newspaper class required of her at San Francisco State University. She knew she wanted to do something different that didn’t fit with the traditional print product, so she was hesitant to take a class that required her to work at the student newspaper.


When she finally signed up for the course in her third year, she decided to pitch one of her different ideas: a weekly video series that focused on what was being called fake news, exploring its origins and proliferation.

“I’d heard somewhere in my time in university,” Fagan said, “that you should do the work in college that you want to be paid to do after college. So that stuck with me.”

Fagan pitched her idea for The Fake News Watch and was thrilled when the idea was accepted.

“I knew I had multiple ideas for things I wanted to make that weren’t going to be news copy,” she said. “I embraced it and pitched this idea. And I got approved to pursue it. It was really exciting.”

The Golden Gate Xpress video series is still new, but Fagan said she believes this topic is very important right now.

“I took the election and the results very personally,” she said. “I felt like what we do in journalism school and what my professors do was at stake. This pursuit of accuracy and getting it right was in danger and threatened. [This is] my own form of resistance.”

While the thoroughly researched show offers much for all audiences, Fagan said students are her primary audience.

“Our main focus is with a younger audience in mind,” she said. “Younger college students who are interested in being media literate. [People who want to learn] how to look critically at the country and their own communities.”

Her lofty goal, to teach students to be more media literate, can affect what kind of media survives these times, she said.

“If [viewers] take anything away from the show, [I hope] it is to be more aware of the media you consume,” Fagan said. “Our individual media consumption is very much vital to what kind of media survives and what media makes good journalism.”

As a student, Fagan said she has had to devote much time to this project on top of classes and a part time job. She said she routinely spends 16-18 hours a week on the video series. She said she also feels she has to please a lot more people than her professional counterparts.

“We are attempting to please a lot of people,” Fagan said. “I know that happens in the professional world, too. We have a unique experience as students with multiple advisers and the department who all have different expectations of us. We are being pulled in a lot of different directions.”

Recently Fagan was asked to speak at the ACP Midwinter Convention about her new project. She said she told students they “shouldn’t be afraid to push the boundaries of what they think student journalism looks like.”

“This was an entirely new format for Xpress,” Fagan said.“It was scary and [we didn’t have a] lot of guidance. [We were] hoping that what we made was something people would watch. I’m so proud that we took that chance and made that leap into the unknown.”

While The Fake News Watch has been educational to viewers, Fagan said she has also learned from the project.

“I have the tendency to not want to start a project if I don’t think I can get it right on the first try,” she said. “This demonstrated how silly and unproductive that is. Pitch the initial idea and start something even if it’s not perfect on the first try.”

Fagan also said she thinks journalism is at a crossroads right now.

“As far as fake news is concerned,” she said. “Fake news comes from so many different places and facets that it’ll either destroy journalism or revitalize it. Journalism, as an industry, needs to regain an understanding of our own place in the landscape and [the fake news myth] has propelled us back into the competition.”

One Response to “San Francisco State University launches The Fake News Watch”
  1. Janice Greene says:

    Brava, Kaylee! What you’re doing right now is vital. Just as the election has revitalized activism — in a way I haven’t seen since the protests against the Vietnam War — I hope fake news revitalizes journalism. The field needs people like you.