This Monday marked the start of the 6th annual U.S. Media Literacy Week, which runs from October 26 to 30. Hosted by the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), this yearly event was created to highlight media literacy and bring awareness to its importance in the American education system.
At a time when “fake news” has become more of a buzzword than a legitimate critique, it’s never been more important to be conscious of the information we consume. NAMLE has been hosting virtual events like workshops, panels and digital film screenings with media literacy experts and professionals all week, which can be found here.
According to Joshua Ceballos, a staff writer for Miami New Times, initiatives like these are beneficial when it comes to building trust between media and consumers.
“Media literacy is one of the biggest issues facing the journalism industry at the moment, as record numbers of Americans distrust the media,” he said. “We need to engage better with Americans on all sides of the political spectrum and explain very thoroughly how our jobs work, so we can begin to build back trust and fight the growing threat of mis- and disinformation.”
A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center reported that nearly 60% of Americans who get their news on social media said they’ve shared fake news in the past. The vast majority said they didn’t know they were spreading misinformation when they did so. Apps like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp are breeding grounds for fake news.
NAMLE’s website lists Access, Analyze, Evaluate, Create and Act as the five components of media literacy. Researchers at the University of Regina in Canada have found that many users in the United States know how to correctly identify fake news, but end up sharing it unwittingly on social media anyway. This is because they aren’t thinking analytically or properly evaluating information when they use these apps for fun. Hence they skip two of the most important components of media literacy.
It’s because of this that Ceballos urges social media users not to take information that’s shared with them online at face value.
“Ask your friends for their source, and lookup if that source is legit,” he says. “If something sounds suspicious, do a Google search and look if reputable sources are talking about it. Chances are, if the story is only being said by some no-name website, it doesn’t have much merit.”