News Literacy

We currently live in a world of media over-consumption. However, that fact is without benefit if we don’t know how to consume it. Journalism professor Howard Schneider, from Stoney Brook University, decided to create the nation’s first New Literacy course in 2009. A lot of this motivation came from the inaccurate information sprouting from the then current H1N1 crisis.

A survey at the beginning of the semester found most of the students seemed ill informed about the news, lacking severe knowledge in news–makers and how an event has a much larger impact as a whole. Therefore many professors thought the students needed more media. It would therefore seem that the students’ first assignment first assignment would be easy: a media blackout of 48 hours. was  to go 48 hours without any news. Students would be prohibited from looking at any news for two days, from political news to the weather. It was found that several students said that assignment was among the hardest things they ever had to do. Even people who never followed the news had developed a carving to flip open a newspaper. It seems the students ween’t exposed to too much media, but to an overload of it.

It also seemed that there was a major correlations among all adults in the U.S. is a lower trust of the media. It was also noted that many saw something as sloppy journalism when it didn’t correlate with their own views. This is a common occurrence I frequently encounter. People often call something ‘fake news’ not because of the quality of the journalism but if it agrees with their own views or not. Among a pro-Democrat or pro-Republican group for example, they each see many political stories as having an agenda to say one side is better. Unfortunately, it seemed the more educated someone was on an issue, the more likely they were to spot a ‘bias’. When taking an “Implicit Bias Test” created by the Harvard and a few other universities, many were shocked by their supposed bias, many rejecting the results. Some however, realized that many of of their bias were probably true, for example, how someone from a ethnic minority might favor whites over their own group if they’ve mostly grown up among whites.

Schneider tried to teach his students what ‘real’ journalism was and how to differentiate from other texts such as entertainment and propaganda. The many media outlets that often spread viral and scandalous information is often false, hurting the reputation or other journalists. He stated that the goal of journalism is to inform and empower its readers. The class also talked about VIA: verification, identification and accountability. It any article lack one or more o those, it wasn’t journalism.

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