Published: March 1, 2023

Approximately half of Americans distrust national news to the point that they believe news organizations are intentionally seeking to misinform their audiences, according to a survey conducted by Gallup and the Knight Foundation.

This year, 10 public relations students from the College of Media, Communication and Information are helping to combat this concerning trend as part of the annual Bateman Case Study Competition—which is organized by the Public Relations Student Society of America.

“Our goal is always to win or place in the finals of the competition,” said Dawn Doty, a teaching associate professor in the Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design. “However, there is tremendous value for each student in this two-semester capstone class. They have the opportunity to research, plan and implement a campaign with a real budget.”

The senior students are competing against more than 70 other schools nationwide on a campaign for the News Literacy Project, which seeks to promote critical evaluation of the media and dissuade misinformation from spreading.

Students were divided into two teams of five members, with each team choosing a name. False Creative is running under the slogan “Think Before You Share,” and The Daily He(a)rd encourages their peers to “Stop the Rumor Ripple.”

Before executing their plans, False Creative and The Daily He(a)rd conducted research to understand what the perceived problems are with misinformation, the best ways to reach their target audiences and more.

After surveying approximately 300 people and conducting three focus groups, The Daily He(a)rd found that while many people recognize misinformation as a problem, they don’t seem to know how to combat it. Similarly, False Creative found that news literacy education is often lacking. Somewhat surprisingly, they also found that most of their survey respondents said they trusted Twitter and Instagram the most for news.

After a semester of researching and planning, the students are now running their campaigns, which began Feb. 6 and continue through March 6.

The teams were given a $300 budget–with the option of raising in-kind donations to help supplement their funds–for marketing tactics like giveaways and events.

Both groups are primarily using social media to connect with their peers, and False Creative has garnered media attention from a number of Colorado news publications, including the Daily Camera, The Durango Herald, Aspen Times and others.

“Our most successful marketing tactic so far has been our op-ed. I recently wrote an article on the ‘Importance of News Literacy’ directed toward rural communities,” said Cassidy Davis of False Creative. “We pitched it to over 70 newspapers across Colorado and have been/will be published by around 20.”

In addition to media-related outreach, the groups also are using in-person components like tabling in the University Memorial Center, informational events and giveaways to encourage student engagement. Notably, The Daily He(a)rd organized a trivia night and a screening of an award-winning media documentary called Trust Me.

“Our most successful marketing tactics have been giveaways,” explained Bailey Ghashghai from The Daily He(a)rd. “We are trying to make things digestible and approachable for our audience and encourage participation. Doing this through incentives has definitely helped to attract more people.”

After the campaigns end in early March, Bateman teams must evaluate their experience into a summary report—considering research, objectives, tactics, etc.—which will be sent to Bateman Competition judges. Teams who place first through third will then be invited to a presentation in New York and receive a monetary award.

Doty noted that the competition is an invaluable experience for students because the communication and public relations industry they will enter after graduation is competitive.

“It is always exciting to see students create campaigns and have a real-world opportunity to test out how they actually work,” Doty said. “I think CMCI should be proud that we give students this opportunity in their senior capstone.”