Ray Suarez has been a journalist ever since his college years at New York University. Marking the beginning of his career, he was a member of NYU’s Washington Square News and WNYU.FM. Later, he worked on local and national television, published and contributed to books, and still writes today. Over the years he has witnessed the general shift of journalism as sharing and consuming information has become easier than ever before. 

    Suarez opened by discussing how journalism has changed over time. In the past, there were natural barriers to entering the journalism industry, namely high costs. Today, anyone with a phone can publish information and consider themselves a journalist. It is important to note that Professor Suarez agrees that breaking such barriers is  “great and democratizing.” (Suarez)However, there are unfortunate consequences. Journalism’s focus used to be both on getting information out quickly and as accurately as possible. There were dire consequences if false information was exposed to publications attempting to get as much of the story as possible. Now, Suarez believes that the emotionally divisive, stimulating, and funny information is prioritized over what is true. Furthermore, algorithms customize viewer feeds, manipulating what they can and can not see. Overall, “the news business is competing with the untruth business,” in a “fight to stay alive, a fight to stay relevant, and also a fight against what’s untrue.” (Suarez).

    According to Suarez, the spread of modern information has high stakes and comes with consequences. He made specific citations of  scenarios heavily impacted  by misinformation including anti-vaccination sentiments during the COVID-19 pandemic despite the lack of scientific justification, former United States President Donald Trump’s impact on American politics in recent years, and even Brexit. Essentially, misinformation makes the difference between unification and division – in the worst cases, life and death. 

    Several questions were discussed during the Q&A. One student asked, would it be ideal for non-factual information to be censored? Suarez responded that he was  hesitant to agree that the government should have the authority to determine what people can see. Another notable question was: Sometimes truth is changing and developing, sometimes it is inherent, what even is the truth, how do we know? Suarez responded that truth lies in a layered process in which we must build our ideas of truth on the many things we learn over time. Finally, he was asked about his expectations for the information industry’s future. Due to the current environment of avoiding seeking truth in favor of false information, Suarez says he is very unsure. 

    While news sources strive to establish a strong presence in a world of misinformation, Suarez advises information consumers to be especially cautious and skeptical of the media.