Truth and accuracy aren't always found in every headline when it comes to economic reports from print, television and online media, according to one local official.
"You'll see headlines all over the place that don't always have the facts," said Dr. Latisha Settlage, associate dean of the college of business and professor of economics at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. "We often in the media don't always get the best picture. With media (reports), you will hear from entities that are not economic-related, instead of hearing from economics experts."
Settlage will serve as the speaker for the Mind Stretchers Series' latest lecture events, Fake News — Perception Versus Reality in Economics. The free events will begin at 6 p.m. March 20 and May 15 at the Ruth Skinner building across from St. John's Episcopal Church, 214 N. Sixth St., and are part of St. John's Episcopal Church's ongoing Mind Stretchers series.
The series features various experts who discuss and answer questions about various issues and topics. Both Fake News events will be gatherings that should be attended by all of those interested in economics, Settlage said.
"The plan is, they will tie together based on the theme that perception and awareness of economic issues often distorts for the consumer," she said. "I have research I've done with my co-authors here at the university that shows students have different levels of understanding of the economy and the trends over time.
"We first asked them questions," Settlage added. "We ask, 'Is inflation good or is it bad? Is the current level of unemployment good or bad?' — just to see their overall economic awareness."
At the time of the survey, numerous students "had no idea" when it came to some areas of economics, she said. The survey spurred Settlage to think that such a lack of awareness also exists among the general public.
Settlage said she plans on having those who attend her upcoming lectures take a survey that will be similar to the one she gave her students.
"With a survey, we typically find that people have a bias," she said. "They have perceptions based on the information that is feeding into their process. If you ask them if inflation is too high or too low now, they will answer one way or another.
"When you present them with the facts, they will have a better picture of what is happening in the United States," Settlage added.
Pat Klahr, a member of the committee that hosts the Mind Stretchers events, said she thinks the lectures will be "absolutely fascinating" for those who attend.
"Especially in this time talking about trade deficits and tariffs, there are lots and lots of ways to interpret things," she said. "The kinds of decisions that our president is making are really speculative in the sense that there are some economists who really think trade barriers and tariffs aren't a good idea, and others who do."
Many discussions are taking place that revolve around ideas about a balanced budget for the U.S., Klahr said.
"There are many economists who think the whole idea of a balanced budget and no deficit are impossible," she said. "If you start thinking about it, it gets very interesting, so I hope that people will come for that reason — that they are trying to understand what is happening in economics and have it make sense."
When asked why she thinks facts and other information are missing from some media reports, Settlage was quick to answer.
"It's all about sensationalism — telling the story that we want people to hear, as opposed to the facts," she said. "Sensationalism is out there, which is why we teach our students, if there's one class you take in college, it's economics.
"So many things boil down to economic outcomes," Settlage added. "If you hear why gas prices are going up and that someone wants to link that to a particular company, that's not always true. Factors determine supply and demand in the gas markets. There are companies that do have significant gas control in markets, sure, but is it realistic that a particular gas company has control over the gas market? Probably not."