Media literacy

Paywalls spark need for media literacy – The Southerner Online

Lily Rachwalski

The New York Times website has over 130 million visitors per month, but only 3.4% of those visitors pay for full access to the site.

Paywalls are a common problem in our modern technology-centric world. News sites like the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and even local sites like the Atlanta Journal-Constitution have created a hierarchy that limits the ability to read reliable news to those who can afford it. allow or are willing to do so. Pay.

Reputable newspapers offer high-quality, fact-checked newsbut they do it at a cost most people can’t afforddirecting Americans to lower quality news or news aggregators, which are more likely to be biased and may leave readers confused or misinformed.

Good information is key to making smart, informed decisions, whether it’s protecting against viruses like COVID-19 or deciding which candidate to vote for in an election. Paywalls can cause Americans to turn to unreliable sources that distort reality and allow personal opinion to distort the news.

In September 2022, on the five most visited news sites in the United States, only the number one website, The New York Times, uses a paywall. The other four websites, Fox News, CNN, Google News and Microsoft Network were free, but they have reliability issues.

Both Fox News and CNN have a substantial political bias in their reporting, and have a habit of using specific sources in their articles that can subliminally or directly influence readers to support a certain candidate or point of view. The Google News and Microsoft sites are news aggregators, or websites that recycle news and articles from smaller websites and do not produce their own content. Because they do not report their own stories or fund the articles they publish, they are more likely to post incorrect and sometimes misleading information, as they may show articles from biased websites such as Fox News and CNN.

Apple News, a news aggregator automatically installed on Apple products like iPhones or iPads with 125 million active usersrecently bundled an article about the upcoming Georgia election with quotes from Tucker Carlson, a far-right television host, stating and arguing that “It now appears that there was significant voter fraud in Fulton County, Georgia last November. It’s not a conspiracy theory. It’s true.“Although this article was featured on a highly visited platform, Apple News, that does not mean it is correct. Snopes, a popular and historically reputable fact-checking website, said that both the aggregated article and Carlson’s citation are incorrectas there is no evidence of voter fraud in Fulton County in the 2021 election. Although aggregators are among the most used news websites in the United States, they are often among the least trustworthydue to the large amount of information they publish and the fact that it is not always verified, which makes most websites visited by Internet users for biased and potentially unreliable information.

With the incidence of paywalls, some people will reluctantly give in and pay for good news. However, others will choose to continue finding their information for free, which means they will likely resort to social media or other websites that produce less reliable information. This in turn can distort Americans’ views of the world and indirectly cause the promotion of political conspiracy theories or simply increased partisanship in the United States.

News awareness is important to ensure voters are informed, especially with Election Day fast approaching. According to the Pew Research Centerbecause of the Internet, Americans face an overload of information, much of it incorrect or misleading due to paywalls on more reliable sources such as the New York Times.

So how should people navigate the saturated internet? If an article or fact seems surprising, check it out. A good resource is snopes, a fact-checking website that updates itself to be current with popular social media posts. Ad Fontes Media has a chart which classifies media biases and factual reporting from various news sources, which is a useful tool to check if a source is reliable.

But, not all news providers are represented on the chart, so to make sure the news you are consuming is reliable, try a reputable news site like the Associated Press, which is classified as a non-profit organization. and charges no fees to readers. The restriction of high-quality information that paywalls impose on readers can be detrimental to the global political climate. Misinformation is a dangerous thing, and turning to less reputable sources of information without fact-checking could potentially instill in Americans a false or biased sense of knowledge, which in turn can influence election results.


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