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Media Literacy

EDITORIAL | Students need better media literacy, outlets like Penn State News can improve that | Editorials | Opinion | Daily Collegian

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The importance of media literacy in the current state of journalism cannot be emphasized enough.

Readers increasingly find themselves questioning the news they’re consuming every day. Journalists should only give them a reason to be trusted, not to worry.

Regardless of the medium, though, it’s ultimately up to readers to understand the message of the media they consume and educate themselves properly on current events — but that doesn’t mean the outlets themselves can’t make the job a little easier.

For Penn State students, there are many news outlets present in the community to inform them on local and world news — there’s student outlets like The Daily Collegian, localized outlets like the Centre Daily Times and international outlets like the New York Times that all students have access to.

The university itself also has its own news tab on its website where viewers will find a small selection of stories on general topics, ranging from athletics to scientific research conducted by members of the Penn State community.

Top stories on the site typically highlight the success of the university and its members. While it may not be hard news, it’s still shining light on the many great things accomplished by students and faculty across different colleges.

These stories also showcase the numerous opportunities present at Penn State for students to take part in while promoting diversity.

The purpose of Penn State News isn’t supposed to be another hard news outlet like the many students already have access to. In reality, the site is meant to present the university at its best while practicing damage control when issues arise.

This isn’t just a university issue — most businesses and institutions want to portray themselves at their best. And while that is the site’s main aim, Penn State still includes the latest news and press releases, though sometimes it requires a deep dive.

This is the importance of media literacy. Readers must be able to decipher the meaning behind the content of news outlets simply. And because some Penn State students may not possess the media literacy of others, Penn State News can facilitate the student body in the process.

Students shouldn’t have to search the site high and low to find out about the latest news on campus. With some improved site organization by placing the latest news front and center, readers can see the day’s top headlines without having to search.

The site doesn’t need to change the type of content it specializes in. However, certain stories of high importance for the Penn State community, like the decision to go back to in-person learning, should be easily accessible so students can find it without any issue.

There’s no need for an elaborate process to find certain stories or pieces of news. The stories should be seen as they’re happening, not until later in the day.

With its title “Penn State News,” some students may come to associate the site with that of a 24/7 newsroom, grinding out breaking news as it happens. While this doesn’t mean the university needs to change the site name, it would benefit many students to know if that’s what they’re looking for, they are likely better off on another website.

One of the university’s strong suits in regard to informing the community is through its newsletter, Penn State Today, which is sent to the emails of all students, providing them with the top stories of the day from the varying sections found on the site.

The newsletter is sent early each morning, several hours before many students are likely to wake up. Perhaps sending it out later in the day when students are on their phones will be more effective in encouraging engagement with the content.

Regardless of what time the newsletter is sent, it’s ultimately still the onus of the students to make sure they’re reading the information being provided to them. Because, let’s face it, most students likely don’t read the news even if it’s being delivered directly to them.

Penn State News also posts open letters from President Eric Barron, which are only sent to students. For alumni who want to keep up to date with Barron’s messages but don’t receive the emails, the site provides them with all of the information needed. Any time an open letter is sent out, it typically is dealing with a prominent issue on campus.

The readers must make themselves more media literate by consuming more news every day while media outlets like Penn State News should strive to report in the clearest fashion possible and make their content easily accessible.

Both parties have the responsibility to put in work to grow media literacy in the current journalism climate.

Daily Collegian Opinion Editor Joe Eckstein can be reached at jce5179@psu.edu.

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