How do any of us know what to believe is true, what is fact vs. fantasy, what’s fake vs. real? Our media landscape – from traditional media to social media – is broken and filled with liars, manipulators, and powerful forces that push propaganda relentlessly. Some do this for political gain, others for profit. The stakes could even be bigger – terrorism and spy games. The control of our nation’s mind is under threat.
It’s up to responsible journalists to take the lead, not only to do their jobs well but to educate others by advocating for truth. One organization is taking the lead in this area – The News Literacy Project www.thenewsliteracyproject.org
“Today’s youth are turning to a wide variety of digital and social media sources to get their news and information,” says the organization. “But the challenge of discerning verified information from spin, opinion, and propaganda makes it harder than ever to know what to believe.”
We co-exist with what I call “agenda journalism.” Today the news media blends in with all media – outlets that aren’t news but that blur the lines. Let’s look at some of the problems confronting people from fully understanding or validating the information or content that they are exposed to:
Too much information is available, overwhelming people. Just which media outlets are reliable? Which ones practice journalism, based on a trained staff educated in ethics, law, and media?
Can you always tell what’s an advertisement vs. editorial content? Are things clearly labeled?
Do you know the agenda behind a media outlet? Does coverage skew a certain way due to politics?
Are there undisclosed financial conflicts between those that report news and those that are used as sources?
Can citizens discern the difference between news reporting and analysis, or fact vs. opinion?
Do people understand how to evaluate an opinion piece and check out the claims made?
Do we check something before we share it?
Is the story relying on anonymous sources? Who are they and what’s their agenda?
How do we know the writer/host checked facts or questioned sources in a probing way?
Are we letting news get pushed to us, based on past searches, habits or requested connections? Are we seeking out numerous and diverse sources? Do we mix it up – TV , online, social, print, and radio? Do we check in with media outlets that represent different viewpoints?
Do we understand that traditional media, weakened by declining ratings/circulation and lower ad revenue, have fewer staff to research, fact-check, and analyze the news, thus compromising it?
Do we understand social media affords anyone and everyone to claim they are experts – with no filtering or review mechanism for their credentials or validity of statements?
Can we see through the fluff and bullshit that’s shoveled our way?
Do we realize some information shared with us came through a paid placement, a paid spokesperson or a sponsor?
Entertainment -- sex, gossip, sports -- gets eyeballs so even major media that’s legitimate will stoop low to get more readers-viewers-listeners by coverign these topics.
We need citizens to be smarter about how they approach all content – what they consume, transmit, or create. We also need stronger laws to crack down on true fake news, just like we have libel and defamation laws. We also need the threat of legit media by lawsuits to silence them to be dismissed.
I come from an industry.– public relations – that far outnumbers journalists. For every hack there may be as many as 7 or 8 flacks seeking to gain influence on the public and media.
It has to stop. If the law can’t protect the public then the people have to take control by getting educated, being disciplined in what they share or create, and to encourage others to pay attention and call out those that truly create or share false, slanted, or compromised content.
It doesn’t help that President Trump, while lying daily, assaults traditional media outlets like CNN, The NY Times, or NBC News by labeling them creators of fake news. The people must become not just citizen-journalists but citizen-cops, policing the lies, rumors, and half-truths that come across their smart phones, television screens, and radio airwaves.
You should check out and support The News Literacy Project an education non-profit that gives middle and high school students the tools to be smart, active consumers of news and information and engaged, informed citizens.
Its work, supported by dozens of news organizations and supporters of journalism, civics and education programs, teaches students how to implement the standards of quality journalism to determine what information to believe, share, and act on. The group also fosters an understanding of the role of the First Amendment and a free press in a democracy.
The News Literacy Project partners with educators and seasoned journalists to deliver innovative lessons in person and through checkology™ virtual classroom, both of which can produce success and results.
Think about the world we live in and the important role, information plays in it. If we don’t find a way to place a checks and balance approach to agenda journalism we will operate in a misinformed, manipulated, and distrustful world, a landscape filled with lies that can destroy society.
Get literate about the news – and tell others how to do the same.
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs