National News Literacy Week!

A warm welcome back to all our news literacy students and subscribers.  Spring classes begin today at Hunter College, which means our website is back in business. And just in time for the first-ever National News Literacy Week. Alan Miller’s nonprofit group,  The News Literacy Project, is teaming up with the nation’s fourth-largest independent TV station company, E.W. Scripps, to launch this national campaign from January 27-31, 2020 to raise awareness about news literacy as a fundamental life skill, or as I like to describe it, a core competency for the 21st century. It really feels like news literacy is going mainstream, which is so encouraging, especially given the tsunami of misinformation hitting us every day.

According to the latest PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist Poll, nearly 60 percent of Americans say it’s hard to identify false information on social media. And if you think it’s hard now, just wait until deep fake videos challenge our very sense of reality.

So what can be done? More than half of the people surveyed say the news media and tech companies like Facebook and Twitter should be responsible for reducing misinformation, but they have little confidence that those efforts will succeed.

That places the burden squarely on the public to become more news literate, which is where we come in. This website is all about helping you become a more literate news consumer. Throughout the semester, we’ll be answering your questions about journalism, sharing stories about news literacy issues, and teaching you the skills to access, produce, and share credible news, which will  make you part of the solution rather than the problem. 

I’ll end today’s post with the question I‘m almost always asked whenever news literacy comes up: What can you do to spot “fake” or misleading news? We spend a whole semester on this, but here’s the quick and dirty answer: 

Credit: Huffington Post

Always start by looking at the source. Is it a legit news outlet or a “fake news” site specializing in satire or an ad designed to look like a news story?  Next, check the date the story was published and whether there is a byline naming the reporter. Fake stories are often missing both. Then be sure to read past the headline and evaluate the sources and evidence mentioned in the story. Look for quotes from sources who are named, independent and informed. Is the information provided verified and supported by hard evidence or just conjecture? At this point, you can do some quick lateral reading to see if other respected news outlets are also reporting this story. If you need to brush up on this skill, check out this post. Finally, beware of your own confirmation bias, that tendency to seek out news that reinforces your pre-existing beliefs. Often we are much less critical of information that fits into our world view. 

And of course, keep visiting because all information is not created equal. 

PS: For more on National News Literacy Week, check out this excellent podcast with CNN Reliable Source’s host, Brian Stelter, and News Literacy Project founder, Alan Miller. 

You can also take a look at a different News Literacy Project lesson each day this week:

  • Monday, Jan. 27 — Navigating the information landscape
  • Tuesday, Jan. 28 — Identifying standards-based journalism
  • Wednesday, Jan. 29 — Understanding bias – your own and others’
  • Thursday, Jan. 30 — Journalists as democracy’s watchdog
  • Friday, Jan. 31 — Recognizing misinformation