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Media Literacy

Media literacy is a necessary skill for Colorado students


Social media usage has exploded over the past two decades while traditional media institutions have declined. The same social media sites and apps we use to share pictures with our friends and families have also become the top news source for just under a fifth of US adults, according to a recent analysis by the Pew Research Center. But these social media sites and more dispersed reporting often lack the robust fact-checking standards, years of editorial expertise, and filtering layers that characterize traditional media.

Nowadays anyone can post, share, and go viral, and it’s just getting easier to impersonate a credible news source. This, combined with the loss of institutional quality control, fact-checking, and accountability of large news organizations as these channels decline in readership and funding, has created a perfect storm for the quick, unchecked dissemination of false information. In this changing media landscape, the burden of evaluating information is shifting from the media to the individual.

Generally, there are two types of misinformation: misinformation, which is the accidental sharing of incorrect information, and disinformation, which is the deliberate dissemination of incorrect information. Many people, including us, have spread misinformation at some point in our lives. Perhaps in response to a recent event, you shared a family member’s post on Facebook without checking the source and it later turned out to be untrue. This is surprisingly common – in fact, falsehoods are 70% more likely to be retweeted than the truth, and they will spread about six times faster to reach 1,500 people, according to a study by MIT.

Media literacy prevents misinformation from spreading on two different fronts: with sharing and with the reader. That is why you, as a partner, bear responsibility. People trust the information they get from their friends more than any other source. So you can increase your impact by using your media literacy to curate what you share on your network.

Disinformation – the deliberate dissemination and promotion of false information – is much more threatening. Recently, disinformation has been particularly damaging in electoral security, promoting anti-science agendas in general, and anti-vaccination information in particular. For example, Russia has used Twitter trolls to fuel the US anti-vaccination debate, and China recently stepped up its own efforts to target US-based Covid-19 vaccines. Tackling disinformation of this type requires that media consumers be equipped with the skills, tools and techniques necessary to prevent this type of targeted disorder.

As we face successive and overlapping crises of confidence in our democracy, science and a public health emergency, it is more important than ever that we as a democracy discuss and debate these problems and solutions to them from a mutually agreed and mutually agreed upon basis verified facts. However, if we cannot base our debates and disagreements on a stable foundation of truth, our democracy itself is in danger.

It is clear that there is a problem and media literacy is an effective solution. Media literacy empowers us with tools and techniques to filter, process and understand the media we receive by helping you understand the context and bias of media and to come to your own conclusions. These are skills that we as individuals need to develop in a media ecosystem that does not contain the same safeguards that we previously relied on traditional media for.

In 2019 we passed a bill to set up a media literacy advisory committee to make recommendations on integrating media literacy into primary and secondary education. This year our bill to implement these recommendations in K-12 educational standards will go through the legislature. Recent events, such as the 2020 elections and the ongoing public health crisis, have only made the need for media literacy education more evident and urgent. We have a lot to do in the months ahead to overcome the effects of the pandemic and our controversial political environment. Debate and disagreement are a healthy part of democracy, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we didn’t argue about the facts but rather debate the solutions?

Lisa Cutter represents House District 25, which includes the foothills and mountain communities of unincorporated Jefferson County. The former PR consultant has long been an advocate of media literacy. Barbara McLachlan represents House District 59, which comprises six counties in southwest Colorado. She taught at Durango High School for 20 years and chairs the House Education Committee.

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