Media literacy

Editorial: Media literacy is essential for online reading

The news media continue to deliver their content online, a place where information is readily available, whether true or not. In the wake of the digital information age, disbelief and confidence in the news has fluctuated. The Northern Star Editorial Board urges everyone to develop their media literacy skills before taking online information at face value and forming judgments or opinions.

Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze and evaluate the media in different forms, depending on the Media education center. The Editorial Board believes the skill is incredibly relevant and necessary for news consumption.

News consumers should be selective about where they find their news. About 55% of American adults sometimes or often use social media for news, according to a Pew Research Center from January 2021 to study. The problem with social media platforms is that articles, whether they come from a reputable news site or an unverified source, are also accessible.

People who use social media as their primary source of political news are less likely to engage in the news, follow the news closely, and tend to be less knowledgeable about current events, according to American News Pathways of the Center in November 2020 to study.

It is particularly crucial for the public to detect and analyze the media, as the widespread dissemination of disinformation has directly affected trust in news and public opinion. Readers will often criticize newspapers and news sources for their political biases. However, these judgments can come from erroneous and competing information from articles containing fake news, speculation, and conspiracy theories.

For example, some people still believe there was no foreign involvement in the 2016 and 2020 elections, and major news sites with articles about the interference were politically biased. However, Facebook has had to shut down more than 100 networks worldwide for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior since Facebook began investigating the issue in 2017. Coordinated inauthentic behavior occurs when groups, campaigns, accounts or pages deliberately share misleading information to manipulate public discourse. These accounts acted ahead of the big democratic election, according to Facebook’s coordinated inauthentic behavior of August 2020 report. Facebook found a dozen networks linked to the Russian Internet Research Agency. The report states that two networks deleted in 2020 were IRA-linked campaigns claiming to be news entities on the social media site.

People who often get their news from social media were also more likely to see and hear the conspiracy claiming COVID-19 was intentionally planned, according to a Pew Research from June 2020 to study.

The Editorial Board believes that people should read entire articles and read them often to hone their critical analysis skills. Readers often spend less than 15 seconds scanning articles, according to a Chartbeat to study. It is not enough time to absorb or engage with the information. News consumers may be unaware of some unfavorable, but widespread news conventions, such as the use of sensational headlines to increase engagement. Headlines and images accompanying articles are not always accurate representations of the main point of an article in digital news.

Any article or publication can be put on a platform, even if the news requires more research and verification. The Editorial Board believes that news consumers must remain vigilant and develop their media literacy skills to critically analyze the media they consume.

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