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Media Literacy

Pamplin Media Group – Three ways to take responsibility for media literacy


This allows Oregonians to control the quality of the news they need to navigate a confusing information landscape

There is a lot of talk these days about fake news, the spread of misinformation, and the confusion of “alternate facts”. Here are three ways to assess the quality of the information you are looking at while consuming the news.

You may be wondering why since we are journalists you can trust everything we say. We do not ask anyone to trust us or other journalists, but rather ask that you confide in dealing critically with the media.

Identify media types

First, what is “the media”?

Media can be newspapers, broadcast news video packets, magazines, podcasts, posters, advertisements, television, books, and yes, propaganda. It’s anything we share with a larger audience or a means of mass communication. Media can also be stories or even memes that are shared through social media channels.

Look at it from an entrepreneur’s perspective. There is no such thing as “media” – it is every single, competing news company. Although there are large media conglomerates in the country, Oregon residents know how helping local businesses can create a more thriving community.

This concept is the same in the news business. Local news outlets and local journalists are the backbone of national and international news, much like local businesses are the backbone of Oregon’s economy, as Governor Kate Brown has often quoted.

A July 2020 study by Pew Research found that most Americans believe local news outlets are the more credible sources of information about the pandemic. So start by reading your local news sources first to build trust and confidence in your own media skills. For example, during the protests and riots in Portland in recent years, many national media have used photos and stories from our local journalists who have already been there and further disseminated the work of our reporters.

There are also different types of media such as advertising, propaganda, opinion-writing, and political commentary. None of them are journalistic news. Popular political commentators people often mistake for news include Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity. This type of content is meant to be a comment or analysis on political news to give people context – but it’s not journalistic news as such.

Examine the sources

Second, look at the primary sources cited. Primary sources are original documents such as published studies, diaries, manuscripts, autobiographies, official surveys, expert or stakeholder interviews and reports. Look for websites that end in “.gov” or “.org” or “.edu” for an easy first step in checking primary sources.

If the news you read is a good secondary source, as journalism should be, then these studies or interviews are named so that you can browse the primary sources with a click or a search.

However, due to the peer review process, it is extremely difficult to publish scientific and university studies, which is why we generally trust the results of these scientific experts. For example, with the coronavirus pandemic, would you trust a study by a single doctor or a study published by Johns Hopkins University?

Good journalism doesn’t tell readers what to think. Instead, it tells readers what to think about and draw their own conclusions.

Read as much as you can

But how do you know you can trust a news source that they are not biased?

You don’t. The best thing you can do is get your messages from as many sources and angles as possible. Check out Fox News, read the New York Times, CNN, BBC, The Guardian, The Associated Press, Poynter, US News & World Report, Business Insider, Al Jazeera, and Reuters. Read the Portland Tribune, Willamette Week, The Oregonian, The Columbian, and The Mercury. You might want to follow a niche news source that interests you, like Bloomberg’s CityLab for urban planners or The Washington Post’s The Lily for millennial women.

Instead of following your favorites on social media, you can download the apps for each release so you can see all the front page headlines in your notifications without social media algorithms affecting what you see. If you hate cluttering your phone with apps, most newspapers have newsletters that you can sign up for on specific beats so you can get the top headlines on your favorite topics straight to your email.

Studies show that when communities have access to local news, the population becomes more involved in civic processes, which facilitates the democratic process – the voices of the population, who are well informed about current events, are heard and shared.

Unfortunately, since 2004, at least 900 churches in the United States have completely lost coverage in local ward newspapers. More than 90 local newspapers in the country have closed their editorial offices since the COVID recession began, and an estimated 37,000 journalists, including those who work for Pamplin Media, have suffered cuts or vacations, according to recent reports from Poynter and the New York Times.

Does the dwindling role of newspapers extend to the riots and protests we’ve seen across the country? In a way, yes, because it leads to polarized opinions and a feeling that different people are not being heard, their voices have no place to be represented, and government decisions do not reflect their opinion.

If you want to help rebuild Portland and Oregon, build a relationship with your favorite local news company and maybe close a deal on advertising space. You’re helping your local paper, your community, and your own business – while holding your local politicians and government officials accountable.

You rely on us to stay tuned, and we rely on you to fund our efforts. High quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to secure the future of community journalism.


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