Better media literacy will require transparent journalists and engaged citizens, experts say – The Blue Banner
Employed full time by the Ashville Citizen Times Casey Blake, community engagement editor and daughter of two journalists, said she was sucked into the news industry and never left.
A big conversation going on in her newsroom right now, she said, centers around labeling content. Specifically, distinguish between news and opinion.
“Helping people distinguish between columns and simple news articles looks like a bigger challenge every day,” Blake said. “Another challenge comes from less credible or less rigorous media sources that catch fire on social media. We have to manage how we report on other stories, which is traditionally a no-no, but increasingly becoming news.
Blake entered the newsroom before cellphones really took off, a time she calls another time. What’s different now for her is the task of deciphering the levels of hostility communicated through social media and other evolving media.
“It’s a really different world to have any guy in a basement able to tweet you dozens and dozens of times and make those threats more directly because we’re more accessible,” Blake said. . “A lot of jokes that existed before no longer exist.”
Blake said that in the past, when she covered Mitt Romney rallies, people were hesitant to talk to her, saying they didn’t want to talk to reporters in town. But when she covered a Trump rally, Blake said people were throwing drinks and trash at the media elevators.
“Of course, it’s a microcosm of the population, but the phone calls I take are much more passionate,” Blake said. “I get a lot of direct feedback from the community. Certainly, in the last two years I have seen a lot more insults and vitriol.
The Pew Research Center reports a low percentage of people who report having a high level of trust in national and local media, with local news outlets earning 4% more than national media in trust. This means that 22% of people have a great deal of trust in their local networks, while only 18% have the same level of trust in national outlets.
Blake said she doesn’t care much about national statistics.
“The most useless term in the world, ‘the media,’ means something very different to different people,” Blake said. “I don’t consider all western NC bloggers ‘media’, but we are certainly paying for their sins.”
Media cannot be lumped into one category because different media operate under different publishing and fact-checking standards, with their own respective and different burdens to bear, she said.
“We got a really nasty letter to the editor this morning about how we over-covered the hurricane, that we overran it,” Blake said. “They referenced this video they saw of this reporter fighting the wind as people walked behind him and it was clear they blamed it on us and equated it with us.”
Ashley Moraguez, an assistant professor of political science at UNC Asheville, said across the board the country has a media literacy problem.
“I don’t think it’s a party versus party problem, I think it’s kind of an American voter problem,” Moraguez said. “With the advent of so many different types of media, it’s easier than ever to select news that matches your ideological predisposition.”
Moraguez defined a media-literate person as someone who does their best to be informed, while keeping in mind the motivations and corporate biases behind reporting.
“We have to remember that most media is owned by the same six companies and one of their main concerns is to make a profit,” Moraguez said.
She adds that being media literate is not just about being a consumer, but also about being a savvy creator and browser of different media.
“Even posting on social media and engaging in political conversation – of course I’m talking about political news, but that could be applicable more broadly – is a form of media creation or at least conversation creation about media,” Moraguez said.
In some ways, Moraguez said she saw the press still serve as the fourth branch of government, but as parties became increasingly polarized, attacks on the press tended to follow.
The Pew Research Center reports growing ideological coherence at both ends of the spectrum, as the percentage of people who consistently express their liberal or conservative views doubled to 21%, creating much larger territory for common ground.
Although consistent politicians represent a minority, they tend to have a disproportionate impact on politics as they are more likely to vote regularly and donate to campaigns.
“There’s all these calls about fake news today and there’s been a lot of academic studies that have said that what people consider to be fake news are things they don’t agree with. “, Moraguez said. “I think it’s a dangerous trajectory that we’re potentially on, but with more education on how to consume the news, we could hopefully combat this trend.”
At the college level, Moraguez said the responsibility rests with educators to educate students about media literacy, as part of UNCA’s liberal arts mission to create engaged global citizens who care. the community and know how to get information.
“What I do to try to get students to think about current events is that for the first 10 or 15 minutes of each class period – it doesn’t matter what class – we talk about current affairs, especially in American politics because that’s what I teach, but also world news,” Moraguez said.
She encourages her students to read stories from multiple media with different biases, as well as international coverage of events in order to get a clearer and more developed idea of what the story they are reading really means.
“I hope people approach the media wanting to be educated and looking for content and context,” Moraguez said.
Katerina Spasovska, department head and associate professor of communications at Western Carolina University, grew up in socialist Macedonia and said consuming state-controlled media taught her to read between the lines.
“You don’t trust what they serve you,” Spasovska said. “It should be the same skepticism for everyone here.”
Spasovska said greater media transparency would be a good starting point for media education.
“Part of my transparency is acknowledging that I’m very liberal,” Spasovska said. “I recognize why I am a liberal. Growing up in a totalitarian system, you realize what freedom is and how hard it is to get it, but also how easy it is to lose it.
Transparency can take many forms depending on the platform. Simply showing readers the process of collecting sources, writing a story and making full interviews available to the public upon release could help people understand how the news works, Spasovska said.
“In some cases, you can’t necessarily have full transparency, but you can explain to your audience why,” Spasovska said.
Another element that Spasovska added to improving media literacy would be demystifying the things that go viral online and meeting audiences where they are with their understanding of media.
Blake echoed that sentiment.
“We have to let go of the idea that people are going to somehow join some sort of boot camp to get to grips with the media in a way that serves us is really unrealistic,” Blake said.
More and more, Blake says she sees people responding to humanity.
“People have a higher bar for connecting with authors,” Blake said. “It’s just amazing the shift in tone and tenor that people take when they know one of us, shake hands with us, and can ask us about the newsroom.”
Blake still receives DVDs proclaiming “the truth” about 9/11 and still receives letters to the editor questioning former President Barack Obama’s birthplace, but she also receives calls from readers in tears of gratitude.
After writing a column about the shooting at Capital Gazette Maryland newspaper, Blake said she received more than 300 emails thanking her for the article and asking how else they could help her.
“I really believe in what we’re doing now more than ever,” Blake said. “As the social media landscape creates challenges, we simply have to overcome them.”