Media literacy

California Joins Other States in Passing New Media Literacy Law

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Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into state law a bill that requires the California Department of Education to provide media literacy resources on its website, to help teachers and students navigate the maze of information on the Internet.

California State Senator Bill Dodd, a Democrat representing Napa Valley, is the author of the bill.

“We already need critical thinking skills in our schools. By giving students the proper training to analyze the media they consume, we can empower them to make informed decisions,” Dodd said in a statement.

Dodd told VOA this week that his media literacy efforts were based on a 2016 Stanford University study that showed 80% of college students didn’t recognize an ad that posed as a report despite being labeled “sponsored content”. The study also found that high school students struggled to tell the difference between the real Fox News Facebook site and a fake account mimicking the conservative outlet.

FILE – State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, right, discusses a measure he has before the Assembly with Congressman Tim Grayson, D-Concord, August 31, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. .

First steps in media education

When the Stanford study first came out, Dodd said, he introduced a bill suggesting a media literacy program for students, but he said lawmakers didn’t want to take ownership. funds for it. Dodd said he realized then that he was going to have to revise his ambitions a bit to a set of state-approved recommendations.

“It was as good as we were going to get for this year,” Dodd said. “Once these modules are online, it will be possible to go even further. Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Mexico and Washington State have also passed media literacy legislation in schools. Many others are considering it.

On Monday, Dodd is scheduled to participate in a forum at the University of California, Davis, discussing media literacy with students, faculty and other interested parties. Its objective is simple.

“If it can spawn any other ideas on how we can improve this, I’ll consider that a win,” Dodd said.

Jennifer Rocca, left, a librarian teacher at Brookfield, Connecticut, High School, works with Ariana Mamudi, 14, a freshman in her digital student class, Dec. 20, 2017. The required class teaches <a class=literacy skills media and has students scrutinize sources for their information online.” src=”https://gdb.voanews.com/94B76EB3-1BA5-4D43-BEDE-A322C573ED3F_w250_r0_s.jpg”/>

Jennifer Rocca, left, a librarian teacher at Brookfield, Connecticut, High School, works with Ariana Mamudi, 14, a freshman in her digital student class, Dec. 20, 2017. The required class teaches literacy skills media and has students scrutinize sources for their information online.

Separate the good information from the bad

Author and former television journalist Dan Kilday has written a book for young adults called “Molly Warner: School Reporter” to address some of the challenges children and adult journalists face in today’s tricky world of media. Its sixth-grade protagonist channels his gossipy tendencies into journalism, but learns some tough lessons about what sources to trust and the importance of clarifying the facts.

Social media allows us to get our information quickly,” Kilday said, “but it’s not necessarily always accurate.” Her book – the protagonist is the same age as her eldest daughter – discusses the harm that can be done by spreading false information. And it’s a good pep talk for future journalists.

“One of the reasons I wrote this book is that we need good journalists,” Kilday said. “There are people who do things the right way and follow their sources and make sure all their facts are right…and then there are people who don’t.”

FILE - This photograph taken in Paris, December 2, 2016, shows stories from USA Daily News 24, a fake news site registered in Veles, Macedonia.

FILE – This photograph taken in Paris, December 2, 2016, shows stories from USA Daily News 24, a fake news site registered in Veles, Macedonia.

Confused adults too

A recent Gallup poll indicates that kids aren’t the only ones baffled by the endless supply of information, good and bad, online. A survey of 19,000 people in 2017 indicated that more than 80% of American adults consider the news media to be very important or critical to American democracy.

But only 27% said they were “very confident” they could tell when a news source was reporting a fact rather than a comment or opinion. Half of the respondents said they thought there were enough sources of information to help people sort through the facts in the face of media bias. But 47% said there was so much bias in the media that it was hard to decipher the facts.

Carolyn Edy is an associate professor of communication at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. She told VOA that she has seen a shift in her students’ perception of news media as online news has become more popular. She said that when students read print newspapers, it was easier for them to differentiate news from opinion. Now, she says, she spends more time teaching students how to navigate a news site and how to understand exactly what they’re reading.

“It’s a big deal for a lot of people,” she said.

With so many sources of information available online, she says, she focuses on teaching students how to assess the accuracy and transparency of their information sources.

“What is the mission of the organization? she asks, by way of example. “What are their professional standards? … Do they declare their conflicts of interest? And, in a key test for journalistic ethics: “What do they do when they get [a story] wrong?” (Journalistic tradition dictates that the publication print a correction.)

FILE - Pedestrians walk past the front door of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington on December 5, 2016. Fake news prompted a man to shoot a gun inside the popular restaurant as he tried of "investigate yourself" a conspiracy theory of a child sex trafficking ring.

FILE – Pedestrians walk past the front door of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington on December 5, 2016. Fake news prompted a man to shoot a gun inside the popular restaurant as he tried to “investigate himself” into a conspiracy theory of a child sex trafficking ring.

Press “share”

Donald Barclay, assistant librarian at the University of California-Merced, published the book “Fake News, Propaganda, and Plain Old Lies: How to Find Trustworthy Information in the Digital Age” this year. Fake news has always existed, he said in a recent interview. But now, he said, “there’s so much information out there…and the cost of transmitting that information is so low that it’s coming in from all directions.”

He offered a good tip for checking the news before sharing it: check your emotional reaction.

“Anger, joy, self-righteousness – that’s where you’re likely to believe anything,” he said. “That’s when you have to be very careful and ask yourself, is it true?”

He also warned that the cost of sharing false information can be high: Consider “Pizzagate” in November 2016, when internet rumors of a child trafficking ring at a Washington Comet Ping Pong pizzeria inspired a Carolina man from the North to drive six hours into the country. capital city and fire three bullets from an automatic rifle at unsuspecting customers. No one was hurt. The heavily armed suspect was arrested, convicted of assault and sentenced to four years in prison.

Barclay said in an email this week that he thought California’s new media literacy law was “a modest first step in the right direction.” Like Dodd, the lawmaker who sponsored the bill, Barclay said he would like to see more media and information education in the K-12 curriculum, though he expressed reservations about leaving it to legislators.

However the story unfolds, Edy, the university professor, says the new emphasis on media literacy has had at least one positive effect: a renewed interest in good journalism . With all the controversy over what constitutes fake news, where to find the best sources and whether social media can be trusted, she said, “I had some of the most engaged students I’ve ever had. And it’s really exciting.

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