Media literacy

The importance of media education | Republic Times


(Editor’s note: This is the first in a multi-part series focusing on major issues associated with media literacy.)

Several studies estimate that the average US citizen spends 4-8 hours consuming media per day. The figures include different types of media used for various purposes including work, entertainment, education and news gathering.

Especially in light of the ubiquity of the Internet over the past 20 years and then the ever-improving use of “smartphone” technology, the amount of information a person is exposed to on a daily basis can make it difficult for a consumer to determine which messages are important and, more importantly, what is credible.

The dilemma is particularly relevant for the journalism industry.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter offer a way to spread news and opinions, even if the lines become blurred as to who is what.

A Pew Research Center study presented American adults with a list of statements like those they may see in the news and asked them to classify the statements as fact or opinion. Only 26% – just over a quarter – of respondents correctly identified all factual statements as verifiable by objective evidence. A total of 35% correctly identified all opinion statements as being based on an individual’s beliefs and values.

Looking specifically at print newspapers, more than a quarter of American readers cannot tell the newspaper’s news content apart from its designated opinion page, by an article in the Columbia Journalism Review.

During the four years of the Trump administration, the term “fake news” has entered the American vocabulary. While this term was originally used to describe information that one might not consider trustworthy, it can now also be used as a way to cancel information that one is not trustworthy with. deal.

At the same time, Facebook is widely cited as a news source, with many believing its credibility to parallel coverage from the Associated Press or Reuters.

A 2014 article published in the Columbia Journalism Review mentioned the blurred lines between infomercials, or advertising content designed to look like print coverage, and “contributor networks” that appear as an independent article but are actually subject to little editorial control and fact-checking .

The concept of misinformation is at the forefront of the public mind, with even former President Barack Obama declaring in a recent speech at Stanford University that it is a “threat to democracy.”

Yet even with awareness of misinformation and some social media platforms attaching “fact-checking” and “misinformation” labels to questionable content, it can still be difficult to determine what information should be viewed with skepticism.

This is where the concept of media literacy comes in.

With the overwhelming amount of information and uncertainty about the credibility of sources, there is a movement to create media literacy courses as required by public education courses in the United States. There are also organizations dedicated to educating the general public about the role of media in their lives and how to deal with the deluge of messages sent by a wide variety of media.

“(Media literacy) is about developing skills, knowledge, and practices for conscious media consumption and production,” said Michael Spikes, Illinois State Chapter Head of Media Literacy Now. , an organization that promotes the establishment of a media education policy. “We think about how the media can influence, what role the media has in our lives, how we can control how the media can influence, etc.”

Given how quickly the internet is enabling media to spread, Spikes said media literacy is perhaps more important than ever.

“There is, I think, a greater responsibility for all of us – young or adult – in what we choose to help inform our ideas about the world and also what we choose to convey to others because it is so easy for us to share a lot of media,” Spikes said. “Media is a pretty powerful tool, and we think it’s important for everyone to realize the responsibilities that come with that power.

Part of harnessing that responsibility is mastering the news, Spikes said.

According to the News Literacy Project, media literacy includes determining the credibility of a source, identifying whether the information is fact or opinion, and “using the standards of authoritative factual journalism to determine what to trust, share and act on”.

“At a time when misinformation threatens both our civic life and our public health, we are putting the future of the next generation and the viability of our democracy as a whole at risk if we do not provide young people with the knowledge and skills to find accurate, verified information and trusted sources,” said John Silva, senior director of professional learning for the News Literacy Project.

News literacy is not only championed as a way to help individuals find reliable sources, thereby helping to combat the spread of misinformation, its proponents also claim it can inspire journalists to do better serve the public.

By understanding the functions of journalism and how a newsroom works – a subject that Republic Times will explore in more detail in future coverage – citizens can engage in increasingly productive conversations with news sources in their hometown.

the Republic Times covers Monroe County and surrounding areas since 1890.

“Just as it is often said that in a democracy citizens get the government they deserve, in the 21st century newly empowered consumers will get the journalism they deserve,” Richard Hornik, Director of Partnership Programs Abroad for the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University, wrote.

In future episodes, learn more about how journalism – when done correctly – is necessary for democracy, how to assess whether a source is reliable, how local news works and more.

(With additional reporting by Scott Woodsmall)

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