I ran into two items today purporting to tell us how to get and check facts when reading the news.
The first, from NPR, is, in my view, overly complicated. As someone who actually knows and has written about how to get facts from the news, I barely got through reading this.
One big problem with this advice: it assumes that wherever you’re getting your news must, first, be questioned for credibility.
Nonsense. Why are you getting your news from sources the credibility of which you must question from word one? Get your basic news from a good newspaper. Easy. And anyone–especially, let me point out, someone who works for broadcast journalism, not newspapers–who tells me from scratch that I have to question the credibility of my news sources…well…
So NPR’s advice is pretty contemptuous of the people Inskeep thinks he’s talking to. That is, you. You’re not so dopey, not so remote from factual reality that you don’t know where to get basic news.
Nevertheless, here’s the link to NPR’s mash-up of advice:
The deluge of fake news suggests we live in a “post-truth” era. But NPR’s Steve Inskeep says it would be better to call this a “post-trust” era. Here are his tips to sniff out the suspect sources.
Then I found this, on BillMoyers.com.
There is nothing new about “fake news.” What is different today are the vast social media networks that allow all information — minor or major — to zip around the internet in nanoseconds without regard to truth or importance. All of this means that when it comes to determining fact from fake and understanding how one’s own biases affect how news is accessed, processed and shared, the onus in today’s unfiltered media world is irrevocably on the news consumer. Continue reading
Source, Alicia Shepard: A Savvy News Consumer’s Guide: How Not To Get Duped – BillMoyers.com
It’s a lot more useful, although it takes a while to get down to the specific advice. But while it’s taking its time getting there, it offers a lot of interesting information about the psychology of accepting or rejecting facts, and cites a few current studies about our media bias. (Liberals tend to accept facts from liberal sources, conservatives from conservative sources.)
There’s a pretty decent list of how to get news (at the bottom). But the hugely good news comes in an answer to my desperate question: how can anybody reach people who don’t get facts and don’t care about getting them?
The answer: teach them early in school! (Just what I was thinking about last night.):
There already are efforts underway to educate the next generation on how to navigate news. The News Literacy Project is a nonprofit dedicated to educating students in middle and high school on how to accurately sniff out the truth. The Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University works around the world providing tools to develop smarter news consumers.
The need for such education is clear.
A recent Stanford University study found that 82 percent of middle schoolers did not know the difference between a real news story and an ad that clearly stated it was “sponsored content,” basically unedited advertising.
Those results are no surprise to the eight-person team at the News Literacy Project. Alan Miller, a Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter, started it in 2008 after leaving the newsroom to teach teens critical thinking skills. Beginning with schools in New York City and around Washington, DC, the project has expanded to Chicago and Houston. In one New York City school, high school seniors didn’t know Osama bin Laden was dead or that US forces had killed him, according to Miller.
“Students need to be able to understand newsworthiness, sourcing, documentation, fundamental fairness and the aspiration of minimizing bias in a dispassionate search for truth,” wrote Miller in a journal article for the National Council of Social Studies. “They also need to be familiar with concepts of transparency and accountability.”
Hurrah! And if you click on the News Literacy Project link, you can donate to this wonderful cause.
A little personal note: Stony Brook is the alma mater of one of my guys, Will Tye, Giants second-year tight end, sociology major.