Fresno State faculty and students have media literacy concerns
Fresno State students, faculty, and staff face two challenges when it comes to media consumption: media literacy and identifying fake news.
And with the pandemic and the upcoming 2020 presidential election, these two challenges will become even more difficult.
“The real responsibility rests on the shoulders of the news consumer,” said Jim Boren, former editor-in-chief of Fresno Bee and executive director of the Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust.
According to the Center for Media Literacy, media literacy is defined as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in different forms”. Media literacy enables people to develop and improve critical thinking skills and understand why media communicate with audiences the way they do.
The idea of fake news has been an issue for many years, and misinformation has been spreading rapidly via social media sites since the 2016 elections. One conspiracy movement that has gained a lot of resonance on social media is QAnon, which suggests that the world is ruled by a group of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who conspire against Trump while running a child trafficking ring. QAnon is an example of how social media can spread misinformation very quickly.
Boren describes the problems with social media in terms of spreading fake news, and the difficulties in improving media literacy can be due to the presence of bots or automated programs on social media sites designed to mimic real people.
“A bot is just a computer program and algorithm that spits out these stories thousands and thousands of times, and people tend to repeat them,” Boren said.
Misinformation can also come from well-known people, including politicians and celebrities. In fact, a study by Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford on misinformation regarding COVID-19, “Misinformation from politicians, celebrities and other celebrities accounted for 20% of claims, but it accounted for 69% of all social media”. Engagement.”
In recent years, social media companies have tried to limit the spread of fake news on their websites. Some companies, including Facebook, have changed their news feeds to prevent fake news from appearing in their users’ feeds. Twitter also helped clean up misinformation on their website.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Twitter flagged some posts as fake news and posted links to factual information about COVID-19 in posts that the company believes may contain misinformation.
Despite efforts by these companies to prevent misinformation from being released, Boren is very skeptical of the accuracy of these efforts.
On the Institute for Media and Public Trust website, Boren writes that these efforts “are a start, but we cannot rely on social media sites alone to do the job we should be doing to ensure that we base our opinions on verified ones ”. Information.”
Another issue in the election has to do with political advertising in particular. Regardless of what is on the ballot, there are different claims about politicians or proposals that put credentials to sources without context.
Boren reflected on his experience as a political journalist and spent his time verifying allegations in a political advertisement.
“I would analyze a political ad and say that is what this candidate said, those are the facts, and that is what this candidate said,” said Boren. “If you’re seeing some of the ads and they have a news source, that’s probably a legitimate news story, but what they got out of that news story, you need to go into the news story to see if it accurately reflects that. ”
Boren also talks about how he’s looked at multiple news outlets and their coverage of California proposals, and the importance of this. He said we should see what is true about claims that political campaigns make during advertising.
In addition to social media, news channels have also proven to be a place for spreading fake news.
Regarding the pandemic, Boren explains that Fox News claimed, “When the coronavirus first came out, they said it was a joke. It wasn’t serious, it is no worse than the flu, more people are dying from the flu and all of this has been proven wrong.
Lorena Vargas, a senior citizen of Fresno state, “doesn’t go on social media at all”.
For students, including Vargas, this edition of the media’s COVID-19 coverage has reached the point where “you can no longer really trust everything you hear or read these days.”
Misinformation can also spread on television. According to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, areas of the country exposed to television programs that downplayed the severity of the pandemic had higher numbers of cases and deaths – because people did not follow public health precautions.
News organizations can also choose what information is made available to the public in terms of the wording of a story that can potentially tell consumers specifically what to think. Some organizations also allow misinformation to be broadcast to the public.
In 2019, MSNBC aired a discussion about ousted Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer when a graphic showed a picture of a white racist, also named Richard Spencer. And in January, ABC News’ Matt Gutman falsely reported that all four of Kobe Bryant’s daughters were on board the helicopter that killed Bryant, even though Bryant and his daughter Gianna were the only members of the helicopter’s Bryant family board.
Errors like the above errors can provide viewers of these news companies with misinformation about the people being covered.
For some, these mistakes can contribute to certain news organizations being biased on certain topics.
Ashley Glougie, a sophomore student in Fresno state, said, “The news media has a lot of leeway in what to say and a lot of false or petty news content is uploaded.”
“The news can easily mislead the public with this content,” said Glougie.
Vargas added that she may be affected by media bias. “Everything is very biased and everything is either black or white,” she said. “There is no room for gray, there is no room for lighter black tones, there is no room for white or anything like that. Either you are in or out, there is no in between. ”
“And that’s why I feel like most of us,” said Vargas. “We tend to say, ‘Oh, they’ll promise, this and that and this,’ and we do it and they don’t keep their promises.”
Boren recommends his students get their information from multiple news sources. “If you go to seven or eight different news sources, you will likely find that most of them agree on the basic facts.”
“If you just get it from one of the cable TV stations, and it may well be an opinion maker like Tucker Carlson or Don Lemon or someone else, they have a point of view and they’ll spin the facts that way,” Boren said. “So you want to get it from legitimate news sources and make sure there are a variety of news sources that you check.”
The Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust is also discussing eight different ways to prevent the spread of fake news and improve media literacy. This includes overcoming personal biases, identifying the source of the message, and using search engines to see if someone reported the same story.
Other tips from the institute include checking the link, looking at other stories, reading the “Contact Us” and “About Us” links, visiting fact-checking websites, and being skeptical about the information you read.
Individuals interested in learning more about the media claims can check websites such as Snopes, PolitiFact, or the Washington Post Fact Checker to see if the claims are true.
To learn more about fake news, media literacy, and other related topics, log on to the Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust website.