Media Literacy Trumps Fake News

The third annual Media Literacy Week highlights the need for more education for all ages, especially as Americans are getting more and more of their news and information from social media. On Point reports on the increasing importance of media literacy, in this age of Fake News and Trump tweets, with CSUN Mass Communication graduate student Anya Crittenton, Cinema & Television Arts Professor Anna Marie Piersimoni and CSUN Political Science Department Chair, Dr. David Leitch.

Fake news has been on the minds of most adults in America, including President Donald Trump, who recently told Fox News’ Lou Dobbs that he coined the now infamous phrase.

Its existence raises the question, how can people fight it?

Experts say media literacy is the most effective way to combat fake news, and becoming media literate will help everyone, including students, understand the differences between real and fake news. The National Association for Media Literacy Education recently held its third annual Media Literacy Week to raise awareness about the issue.

According to a recent Pew Research Study “nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults (64 percent) say fabricated news stories cause a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events. About a third of U.S. adults (32 percent) say they often see made-up political news online, while 39 percent sometimes see such stories, and 26 percent hardly ever or never do.”

Pew Research Center also reports a ten percent increase since 2016 in social media use for people over 50 years old. And the study also saw a ten percent increase in nonwhite social media users. In addition, 45 percent of all Facebook users say they rely solely on the site to deliver their news.

“I think it is less about the mobile devices themselves, and more about how they have changed our culture,” CSUN Communications Studies graduate student Anya Crittention said. “Also, I think [the controversy over fake news] is damaging to journalism itself. While people are now ready to believe fake news, there’s also this increasing cynicism and distrust of the media. And, I think that is also dangerous since the media inherently is meant to be for the people and if we turn our back on them, that’s also dangerous.”

Media historians say social media outlets have allowed for an emergence of more voices, and that makes the news more democratic. And now the news cycle has become 24/7 due to the emergence of digital media technology, and that makes news and information more accessible to more people.

“I think there’s been fake news around for a long time,” CSUN Cinema and Television Arts Professor Anna Marie Piersimoni said. “We just have more of it because we have more of everything, and more voices doing that, but from the early days of yellow journalism, [from] the building of the Hearst Empire to the building of the Murdoch empire, there’s been fake journalism.”

Piersimoni said sensational ‘clickbait’ headlines cause people to jump from one article to the next without taking the time to evaluate the story. And since people are not reading the full story, they are relying only on their own beliefs, and not using the critical and analytical tools of media literacy. These strongly held beliefs and biases create filter bubbles, and limit the amount of information people are exposed to, or willing to read.

“I think that the awareness of your own biases is the only way that you can start to pierce the bubble,”  CSUN Department Chair of Political Science Dr. David Leitch said. “If you don’t know what your preferences are, and if they’re sort of unexamined, unaware, unconsciousness, then you don’t have any strategies for confronting them. And I’ll be an advocate: I will say it’s good to confront your biases, not just because it is healthy and democratic, because it is fun.”

Media literacy experts say it’s important for students to read opinions written by sources they don’t necessarily agree with, and to be exposed to more viewpoints, even if they have to look hard to find them.

“The best thing, I tell my students, is to not only follow the money, but to follow the breadcrumbs,” she said. “Especially if you go to Wikipedia. Down at the bottom of the page, check all the little footnotes, and double check, and then cross-reference. It is the best thing that you can do. And then see if you can find the opposite view of what you’re looking at.”

Moderator: Minerva Medrano

Producers: Diego Girgado and Tyler Jones

Anchor: Morgan Ball

Social Media Editors: Joselynn Castro and Shannon Ozburn

Reporters: Morgan Ball, Joselynn Castro, Diego Girgado, Tyler Jones, Minerva Medrano and Shannon Ozburn

Comments are closed.