How very timely, this module on information literacy! Here we are in an age where our political leaders brazenly ignore their constituents, rarely speaking directly to our representatives, the press, preferring instead the veil of digital anonymity which renders every person emboldened to speak whatever is on their mind without considering its effect. Never minding grammar, using as much hyperbole as possible, they bludgeon their followers and the public with exaggeration and lies. We now are told that it is wrong and weak to be “PC”, politically correct. Back in the day, the throwback terms for “PC” were polite, civil, and empathetic. With current investigations into election tampering and illegally using media to bias voters, the issue of, no, the NEED for, digital literacy is one of the most pertinent issues right now. When adult experts, international law enforcement, and media moguls cannot even discern breaches in their own platforms, how can we expect children to do so?
The “media” is made up of people like me and you, ordinary people, hopefully educated and following a code of ethics. According to Joyce Valenza’s blog, NeveEnding Search in School Library Journal, professional journalists follow a strict ethical code to always seek the truth. In fact, on their code of ethics page, the Society of Professional Journalists post “Seek Truth and Report It” as the main bold heading.
Without doubt most journalists are doing just that. But that doesn’t mean that they are not biased. On The Liturgist podcast, Fake News & Media Literacy, cohosts, Michael Gungor and Mike McHargue said it best: there is a difference between fake news and media bias.
Nearly every news outlet skews right or left of center. According to an interview the Dow Jones web magazine, MarketWatch, conducted with Valerie Otero, author of the viral Media Bias Chart, Otero says, “If you have just a couple sources that you think are in the middle but none exist either to the right or left of them, or up or down from them, you may be on the wrong track”.
There has already been some scandal because of the way that certain news corporations have bought up television stations in small markets and force them to ‘editorialize’ their broadcasts. In an article in The Guardian, Lucia Graves cautions about the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest broadcasting company in the United States. Besides traditionally skewing towards conservative slant, there is “another cause for concern, and increased scrutiny, is what’s seen as the company’s pronounced political agenda. Sinclair forces its local stations to run pro-Trump “news” segments”.
It is hard enough for grownups to discern entertainment from information. Witness the unfortunate instances the satirical website, The Onion, has been quoted as truth. Perhaps the most telling instance of experts-who-should-know-better is when comedian, Jon Stewart, now former host of the Comedy Central faux news show, The Daily Show, appeared on CNN’s Crossfire. He criticized the Crossfire hosts of diminishing true debate because of their adversarial and divisive approach to the news. One of the hosts, Tucker Carlson, retorted that Stewart himself had been soft on one of his guests, a presidential candidate at the time. Stewart then attacked Carlson reminding him that Stewart hosted a satirical television show on a network devoted to comedy, not an actual debate and interview program on a respected 24 hour a day news network. I have posted the link below of a clip of the 2004 interview that eventually cancelled the Crossfire institution.
So how can we help kids to figure out what many adults have not? Teach them media literacy. Media Literacy is perhaps too much of a mouthful for some students, and unnecessarily academic. For kids we could call it “fake news avoidance” or “faked information avoidance”. I found the SLJ blog article extremely informative. It points out so many current issues and illustrates that even adults and young adults often cannot tell the difference between fake news and trustworthy news. Valenza provides a checklist to verify websites that I adapted into a visual.
One of the points is a strategy I have been using for several years: scrolling all the way down the page to find the “About” link. Who wrote or sponsored the article? Who are they connected to? I admit that I looked up Common Sense Media after seeing the link in our resources for this week’s module. I wanted to see if CSM also had an agenda and was ‘owned’ by a large media corporation to promote their own interests so I Googled the organization and their founder, Jim Steyer and was satisfied that it has partnerships with many solid research institutions.
But each of Valenza’s suggestions are handy. Any time a claim is made in a published story, it behooves us to ask ourselves if it could possibly be true or if it is too ridiculous. Are there corroborating stories from other sources or did just this site say so? This is what she means by triangulation. Check out the source and the URL it was posted on. Does it look real, or does it have extra suffixes added to the address? Her Rules of Thumb are practical for everyone and could be simplified for younger students. They certainly should be followed as is for young adults and teachers.
Sources: *Please note that the hanging indent Control T is not affecting these citations even though they were copy and pasted indented, but will not indent or allow Tab to move them over. I am not sure how to fix this glitch….
Fake News & Media Literacy [Audio blog post]. (2017, July 3). Retrieved September 6, 2018, from http://www.theliturgists.com/podcast/2017/3/7/fake-news-media-literacy
Fallon, K. (2012, November 27). Fooled by ‘The Onion’: 9 Most Embarrassing Fails. Retrieved September 8, 2018, from https://www.thedailybeast.com/fooled-by-the-onion-9-most-embarrassing-fails
Graves, L. (2017, August 17). ‘The most dangerous US company you have never heard of. Retrieved September 8, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/aug/17/sinclair-news-media-fox-trump-white-house-circa-breitbart-news
Jon Stewart criticizes CNN on ‘Crossfire’ – CNN Video. (2018, July 04). Retrieved September 8, 2018, from https://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2018/07/04/2000s-original-series-episode-1-clip-1-tv-jon-stewart.cnn
Langlois, S. (2018, April 21). How biased is your news source? You probably won’t agree with this chart. Retrieved September 8, 2018, from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-biased-is-your-news-source-you-probably-wont-agree-with-this-chart-2018-02-28
SPJ Code of Ethics – Society of Professional Journalists. (n.d.). Retrieved September 9, 2018, from https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp
Valenza, J. (2016, November 26). Truth, truthiness, triangulation [Web log post]. Retrieved September 9, 2018, from http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2016/11/26/truth-truthiness-triangulation-and-the-librarian-way-a-news-literacy-toolkit-for-a-post-truth-world/
Who we are | Common Sense Media. (n.d.). Retrieved September 9, 2018, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/about-us/who-we-are