As a teacher of mass communication, I read and think about media literacy and teach it in my classes. In today’s world of click bait and fake news, we all should take time to understand and strengthen our media diet. Here are 10 tips:
- Triple check the source before sharing an article on social media. Creators of what is called “fake news” gain financially. They make a quick buck off of Facebook and Google ad networks. They tempt you with a salacious headline, so that you will check out the story. And then they have you! And they just made some money!
- Bust your filter bubble. Is social media your main source of news? If so, you are living in a filter bubble. Facebook and other social sites build an algorithm based upon what you have liked, commented on, or shared. Over time, your feed will only give you the type of information that supports your predisposed beliefs.
- Beware confirmation bias. We all like articles that agree with how we think. We tend to see articles in shades of red or blue; this can lead us to black-and-white thinking. And none of the issues being debated today are as simple as black or white.
- Try to get your news and information from a variety of sources. If you normally watch MSNBC, make yourself watch Fox News every now and then. And vice versa.
- Remember it’s always about money. The main goal of cable news networks is to make money, and as such, they have aligned themselves with certain point of views. Neither Fox News nor MSNBC are always fair and balanced. If you are watching one all the time, it is probably because of your own confirmation bias.
- Beware of superlatives, such as “largest,” “best,” “biggest,” etc. Superlatives usually cannot be supported and could signal that you are reading fake news.
- Identify the type of article. News? Entertainment? Opinion? Misinformation? Propaganda? Is it intended to inform in a dispassionate way or is it intended to incite?
- Some truth doesn’t mean it’s all true. Fake news creators will write a paragraph of truth and then surround it with paragraphs of misinformation.
- Factual errors are not necessarily fake news. Reporters are human. They make mistakes. Credible news sources go back and correct.
- Get your face out of the screen. Go outside. Turn off the news (or cancel cable as we have done in our home). Don’t check your social media feeds several times a day. Doing this well give you perspective, but that’s a column for another day.
Interested in learning more about this? Check out this podcast from 1A: Fighting For The Facts: How To Tell What’s News And What’s Fiction