When was the last time you picked up a newspaper? Or turned on the TV to watch the news? Personally, it's been a pretty long time since I've done it on my own accord. My parents used to make me read the newspaper and watch the news on TV with them every night, but I'd honestly just skip to the interesting articles and the comics section. The TV just seemed to play lots of violent clips and random car chases, so I didn't really know what I was supposed to be learning from that.
I've recently had the pleasure of taking a class about the media industry, where I've been learning about news literacy and all the different ways in which the media affects our daily lives. It made me realize that I'm super disconnected from the news and current events, despite the fact that this is the most connected we've ever been before, through our phones and social media and the latest technology that our parents probably couldn't even dream of back when they were kids.
Simply put, news literacy is the ability to access, consume, create, and distribute media. We must be able to differentiate between fact and fiction, determine the reliability of our sources and utilize our critical thinking and analysis skills. This is especially important in the digital age, where the spread of "fake news," or misinformation, has become particularly prevalent. With all of the access we have to the Internet and technology today, we are constantly connected and it is now easier than ever to communicate with the world. This may include posting your own content or sharing someone else's, regardless of whether it contains the truth or is simply looking to grab an audience's attention.
Before you share your next outrageous post with a catchy headline and exaggerated picture, check your facts first.
If the story is a little too good to be true, do some extra research. Where did the story come from? Are the sources reliable or was the article published on a website known for rumors and gossip? Are other reliable sources posting similar stories? These are only a few of the questions you should be asking yourself before you click "share."
You also might want to expand your sources of news, especially if social media is currently your sole source. Consume some other forms of media, like the traditional radio or a magazine. It seems like fewer and fewer people in their twenties and younger no longer care about what is going on in the world and can't be bothered to find out. It's important to be informed so that you don't fall into the trap of clickbait and stories based only on rumor. It is now easier than ever to access information, so take advantage of it!