How to fight 'fake news'

Monday, October 16, 2017
With rising concern about “fake news”—a term I reject, because it’s an oxymoron—the Downers Grove (Ill.) Public Library invited me to present a talk on “News Literacy in a Digital Age.”

I accepted because I believe (as you can hear below) that, if the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, the price of our liberty in this day and age is our eternal vigilance that the information we use to make our democratic decisions is reliable.

Need tools to defend yourself against the onslaught of false information from friends, relatives or trolls? Check out these video highlights from my presentation, Sept. 26, 2017.

Or skim the slides at

P.S. What do you think about the sound in this presentation? Recorded on an iPhone in my shirt pocket.

2 places to see me next week, and 1 place to hear me right now

Wednesday, September 20, 2017
1. Tuesday, Sept. 26, I’ll be lecturing at the Downers Grove Public Library on the dangers—or not—of “fake news.” It’s free and walk-ins are welcome, but the library hopes you’ll register in advance.

2. Wednesday, Sept. 27, I’ll join a distinguished panel to discuss “Truth and Ethics Across Earned and Paid Channels” before the Chicago chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. That one’s not free.

Bonus: Can’t wait that long? Hear my Sept. 6 interview with President Obama’s strategist David Axelrod in podcast format anytime right here.

Turning a live event into a podcast: A case study

Sunday, September 10, 2017
Last week, I interviewed my former neighbor, Obama chief strategist David Axelrod, on stage. A sellout crowd of 1,000 people paid to see it, and many more told me they wished they’d been there. So I made arrangements to turn it into a podcast.

Photo: Alexa Rogals, Wednesday Journal
Our hosts at Dominican University, which recorded the event, shared the audio with me. In broad outline, here’s what happened next:
  1. I opened the audio in the free Audacity audio-editing software.
  2. I edited the audio lightly. The mics were too loud in a few instances, and they dropped out in a few other instances. Fortunately, I recorded the whole thing on an iPhone inconspicuously set on the small table between David and me, so I was able to patch the troubled spots with almost-as-good audio. (Can you hear the patches?)
  3. Once the edits were complete, I ran the whole file through Audacity’s Compressor function—raising the soft passages and lowering the loud spots.
  4. I wrote an intro and a close, and recorded them on an iPhone—being careful to isolate my voice by putting a blanket over my head.
  5. I edited those onto the event audio.
  6. I uploaded the completed audio to the free website, whose goal is to “provide universal access to all knowledge.”
  7. I embedded the audio player on (The player’s also embedded at the bottom of this page.)
  8. Then I shared the link widely on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Do you have an event whose audio would make great listening? Let’s talk.

Thank you, Chicago.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Forty years ago this week, fresh out of the University of Illinois College of Communications and student radio station WPGU-FM—technically, still finishing a master’s degree—I took my first job as a full-time professional journalist.
Gary Deeb’s Chicago Tribune column, Sept. 19, 1977

I signed on Aug. 15, 1977, for what would be a two-year run as news director and morning news anchor at WMRO-AM and WAUR-FM in Aurora, Ill.

It was the week Elvis Presley died and the week I learned—on the air—that “mausoleum” doesn’t rhyme with “linoleum.”

It was the start of a wonderful career blessed from start to, well, now—which I hasten to add is not the finish of my work bringing the news to Chicago-area audiences.

I was lucky to follow that assignment with a decade at WXRT-FM; almost nine years at the late WNUA-FM; a near-13-year run at the (also late) Tribune Co., including the Chicago Tribune, Tribune Interactive and WGN Radio; and a string of innovative startups: FM News, Rivet Radio and my latest baby, Chicago Public Square.

Even more rewarding than the jobs themselves has been the chance, at almost every stop—and at a few colleges and universities along the way—to work with smart and talented students and interns who would become the celebrated journalists and authors of the future.

If you’ve ever hired, been hired by or worked with me—or if you’re related to me—please accept my deepest sympathy.

If you’ve ever gotten your news from me—as a listener, reader or even occasionally as a TV viewer—please know how grateful I am for your priceless gift of attention.

And how much I look forward to more of the same.