This article is part of a series addressing topics relevant to water security in Iron and Washington counties. Look for stories online on select Fridays and in print on select Saturdays that feature updates on ongoing water issues, interviews with experts and explorations of how we can ensure a better water future for the growing communities in southwestern Utah.
It’s Halloween. So, let’s talk about something spooky related to water conservation. On Wednesday, October 21st, Dixie State University’s student newspaper, the Dixie Sun News, released the 9th issue of their 59th volume, in which they pranked and tested the student body by producing a front page full of fake news.
In an admirable effort to educate students about the importance of critical thinking skills during an era awash with viral memes and conspiracy theories, the inside of the issue is filled with tips on how to spot and resist the salacious allure of fake news. Flip open your copy, and an editor’s note reveals the cover stories to be a hoax. An article below that by student journalist Christina Block dissects what fake news is, why it is successful and how social media spreads its lies. An adjacent piece by Sydney Berenyi then advises fellow students to “carefully examine the source” and to “ask yourself, ‘does this sound believable?'” And a crossword puzzle on the back page challenges DSU to engage with concepts of confirmation bias, algorithms and fact-checking.
But the main article on the front page — remember, it’s fake — has university leadership making the decision to replace grass on campus with cactuses as an effort, in part, to conserve water resources.
“Trampled grass and wasted water are about to be a thing of the past at Dixie State University,” the article begins, before launching into humorous details about staring down the lawn maintenance guy while defiantly trampling the grass, and new hedgehog cactuses encouraging student-athletes to run faster, “like Sonic.”
The student reporter who penned this story, Autumn Nuzman, did a great job. She also contributed a piece that ran on the Opinion page, in which she asserts that readers must “educate ourselves on how to spot and combat actual fake news.”
The question is, why are we in a situation where the concept of DSU replacing turf on campus with desert-adapted species qualifies as front-page fake news material?
Turf buy-back programs all over the desert…