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Media Literacy

Timely Media Literacy Course to Investigate Fake News and Misinformation: News at IU: Indiana University

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In an age of information overload, a timely IUPUI course will help students decipher the noise and identify fake and factual news.

Media Literacy (JOUR-J 460) will be taught this semester by Chris Lamb, Chair of the Department of Journalism and Public Relations at the School of Liberal Arts. The three-credit course takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:00 to 13:15 in a hybrid format and is open to all IUPUI juniors and seniors regardless of the subject.

Headlines from the current news cycle will guide this timely confrontation with the news media, misinformation and its impact on democracy.

Inside IUPUI previewed the course with Lamb who shared why now is the right time to deconstruct the news.

Q: What was the history of the course and why now?

Chris Lamb: My opinion on media literacy will be based heavily on what President Donald Trump has called “fake news”. This course as I designed it could not have existed until Donald Trump became president and started attacking the news media as “fake news”. Trump did not want to criticize the news media as an institution in substance. If he’d done that honestly, it would have been a conversation that would have been worth it. Instead, his aim was to discredit the news media and thus any criticism of him and thus seize power, as authoritarian despots have done for a long time.

Q: Why should students who aren’t studying journalism care about media literacy?

KL: A media literacy course, whether it be news or media in general, should be taught in elementary school when the brain is developing. The media has a profound impact on us in ways that most of us don’t understand. We need to be aware of everything that affects the sensitivity of so many people so much. Not only do we need to understand the role of the news media in society, we also need to understand how news is created, collected and disseminated.

Q: How do you classify media literacy?

KL: Thomas Jefferson understood that democracy depends on informed citizens. It is the duty of journalists, as the New York Times says, “to spread the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of the party, sect or interest involved.” Our democracy needs credible journalists who act according to journalism best practices. This is undermined by fake journalists and fake news networks who do not report the news but do propaganda.

Q: “Fake news” has become a common term in national conversation. How will this class differentiate between truth and fiction?

KL: This question goes to the heart of my class. One of the goals is to distinguish between truth and fiction, and one way to do this is for students to identify the sources of the information they believe in. Credible journalism exists because journalists and editors follow certain standards, routines, and practices in order to learn the truth. They do reporting and research and identify the sources of their information. Facts take hard work. Don’t invent things. Real news is necessary for a democracy; Fake news is toxic to a democracy.

Q: We are almost always within range of the news. There’s the endless flow of social media content, push notifications on our phones, 24 hour news networks, and much more. How will this class explore the variety of media through which news is disseminated?

KL: Yes, the 24-hour news model has distorted the news and weakened journalism and democracy. But news websites, legitimate ones at least, contain links to their sources. This gives the news consumer the opportunity to check the legitimacy of this source for himself. Whether we’re interested in journalism or democracy, we should be vigilant about identifying the source of our news, just as we should know what’s in our food, our fluids, and the air we breathe.

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