Achieving Academic Outcomes

Media literacy and how to know fact from fiction

Dr. Eddith A. Dashiell, director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, talks to students at Columbus Journalists in Training. Ohio University journalism students sit to her left.

Media literacy has become crucial as we surf the world full of saturated information.

People are constantly bombarding us with new information in many different ways, including news, ads and 24/7 social media posts. Media literacy means the ability to tell the difference and figure out what’s legitimate and what’s not.

With the internet and social media, information is very constant, but not always reliable or accurate. Having the ability to tell the difference between credible and misleading information is an important skill because it can significantly impact public opinion and behavior.

“Social media is in the hands of enough individuals who are posting lies that can damage our country, if people believe the lies are true,” said Dr. Eddith A. Dashiell, director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.

There are several ways misinformation spreads. Common ones include clickbait headlines, manipulated images or videos, out-of-context information, bot networks and conspiracy theories.

These are examples of things we have to watch out for when looking at all news. Media literacy is vital in the spread of misinformation and fake news. It helps us develop the knowledge to understand news we see and how to critically evaluate it. It provides us with skills that engage with media, understand the influence and create content responsibly.

Technology has improved and evolved throughout the years. In the 1930s, educators began to recognize the importance of teaching students how to analyze media content. Over the years, media literacy has expanded from newspaper and television to social media and the internet.

By developing media literacy skills, we can better differentiate between credible sources, understand bias and make informed decisions, not just online but also throughout our day-to-day lives.

To help improve media literacy, several strategies can be applied. First, we can incorporate media literacy education into schools so educators can supply young learners with the necessary skills.

A new Boston University College of Communication survey of Americans suggests that while people want more media literacy skills, they aren’t sure how to get those skills. Nearly 70% of survey respondents reported wanting better media literacy skills, especially deciphering what’s true and what’s not online, but only 42% of survey respondents reported knowing how to access media literacy training online. The survey was conducted by Ipsos.

By being media literate, we can spot misinformation, navigate information with a sharp eye and contribute to a more informed and empowering society. It’s all about being curious, asking questions, doing research and not taking the media at face value.

Ways to improve media literacy to help us understand are: verifying information, educating ourselves and others, understanding media techniques and developing critical thinking skills. So the next time you come across any news article, take the time to read carefully and use these examples to make sure the information is accurate and credible before taking it in and spreading it.

Diamanni Anderson is a student at South High School. This piece was written for Columbus Journalists in Training, a program sponsored by the Columbus Dispatch and Society of Professional Journalists Central Ohio Pro-Chapter for Columbus City Schools students. Diamanni was a member of team Chatterbox.

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