Updated: Mar 19, 2020
The world is crazy right now, and it doesn’t seem like things will calm down any time soon. It’s scary, wild, and kind of surreal. In times like these, it is important to lean into facts and truthful information, and turn away from sources that mislead or share false information. The problem is, for most people, media literacy is a challenge because there is SO MUCH content available that separating credible sources can be difficult and very time consuming.
Here are some helpful media literacy tips that you can apply to your daily news routine.
Realize your own biases
If you start reading or listening to a news story you have to recognize how your own biases are coloring the way you WANT the story to go, and in turn will direct your interpretation of the validity of the story. That has no bearing on whether or not the story is true. When seeking information you have to check your own bias. If you seek out news to confirm what you already believe, you're looking to have your ego boosted, not to be informed.
React to headlines with curiosity not judgement
In journalism school we are taught to create catchy, creative, and thought provoking headlines. It takes skill and creativity to do this right. Any good journalist will tell you that. However, in today’s world of click-bait content, writers can exploit that practice and create headlines that lend no correlation to the actual story, and that are just blatantly false. Always, ALWAYS read the entire article if you want to know what's in it, and always before you share it on social media. Try not to be so reactive towards headlines, and be more open to engaging with the content.
Traditional media has more fact checks and editorial responsibility
There are some amazing small news blogs and small media websites out there but the perk of having a large news organization is that you have RESOURCES... this makes the newsroom able to have several sets of eyes on a news story before it makes it to the general public. What this does is help catch any falsehoods or mistakes before it is released to consumers.
In local television The reporter would write the story, I ( as the producer and content manager) would read and edit, the main anchor would also read and edit, and then the news director would be the final set of eyes on the story before air. So that story made it through the hands of four people before it made it to our viewers.
Consider the source
There should always be a clear source as to where the content came from and who wrote it, and the information inside the article needs to be sourced. If the article or news story is making any type of claim they need to back it up WITH facts and what EXPERT is giving that information. Don’t believe ANYTHING you see shared in a social media post that isn’t cited clearly with who is making the claims, where the “expert” information is coming from.
You know the saying: believe none of what you hear and half of what you see. That is a very real practice that you need to exercise when you seek information on social media. There are people that will intentionally give you wrong information for the sake of getting money or attention.
When big, scary stories happen, like now with the coronavirus, you have people that share information that is untrue and is downplaying the seriousness because it makes THEM feel better. It’s an “ignorance is bliss situation.” It is the job of the content creator to be honest, and to produce accurate information. It’s your job as a consumer to be vigilant in holding them accountable.