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“Oh, Jack, turn on the charm,” said my mother as we watched television together.

A student recently told me that it was great to have an old professor like me because whatever it was, I had been there. There's something to that: When I popped onto the scene, my father had just been in the great naval battle of Leyte Gulf and was on the way to Tokyo via Shanghai and other venues. Dad came back but there is a too long list of friends who were not so lucky. 

I could not help bragging to a student that I had seen the "Yankee Clipper," Joe DiMaggio, as well as Yogi and later Mickey play ball. He eagerly asked if that was during his famous streak. No, it was just a spring game against a local minor league team.

In my time, I took now-distant versions of basic courses in accounting, finance, management and marketing. They are all part of how I think and put things together today.

I recall a quote from an experienced manager, who said doing business was like driving 65 mph with only a rearview mirror to guide. In my youthful thinking, I felt good business people had a clear view of what was coming. If you had a few miles on you, you knew what was right. My job as a business teacher is to make the images in student mirrors as clear and sharp as possible.

In business school, we teach that communication is more important than crunching numbers and that being a step ahead of the competition can win the game. Jack Kennedy used the new medium of television to turn on the charm in that 1960 president debate I saw with my mother; he won the presidency. Years later, watching the film, it was clear that awkward and sweaty Richard Nixon had a better grasp of the issues than Kennedy.

Liberal or conservative, our world went into shock Nov. 8, 2016, as Trump pulled it out. The wise word of the night came from a PBS panelist (jaw on lap), who said it would take a long time to figure this out.

Using our business rearview mirror, it was - as Yogi said -déjà vu all over again. Did Trump, as Kennedy before him, win at least in part by effective use of social media?

I am currently living a happy and very educational new media experience. On Feb. 15, ISU announced that our international business institute would be named after my wife and me. This was duly reported in this paper the next day, but by 4 p.m. on announcement day, congratulations came in from our cousins in Berlin, Germany. In following days, congrats have come from our international business graduates across the country and around the world.

Facebook is a pricey stock. It generates $25 of advertising revenue for each of its billion followers. From a low of $20 a few years ago to a current $180, it remains a good long-term value.

This new media force has, of course, a dark side. While there is spin one way or another, there is a high level of trust in the reliability of print journalism. Walter Cronkite of CBS was dubbed the most trusted man in America. With new media, trust is out the window.

We need education and reminders to retrain and hone our senses. We need new ways to evaluate reported events. If spreading lies about politicians were criminal, think how we could pack our jails.

Fake news is not a new thing. It is widely known in Germany that in the early history of the United States, there was a vote on the official language and German lost to English by one vote.

The first publication of our Declaration of Independence was in German. Thomas Jefferson wrote it in English and all the signers were native speakers of English. But Germantown and King of Prussia are near Philadelphia and their printers translated and printed it faster than the English language press.

A story with a grain of truth can morph into a lot. Business thinking is critical thinking. Remember what you see is in the rear view.

Carson Varner is a professor of finance, insurance and law at Illinois State University.


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