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News Literacy in a Digital Age


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Highlights from veteran journalist Charlie Meyerson’s Sept. 26, 2017, presentation at the Downers Grove Public Library, where he offered guidance for weeding through digital noise and social media to find and share news responsibly.

Published in: News & Politics
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News Literacy in a Digital Age

  1. 1. Charlie Meyerson @Meyerson on Twitter News literacy in a digital age
  2. 2. • R.I.P., The Age of Mass Media • How to spot ‘fake news’ • How to manage your news flow What’s to come
  3. 3. R.I.P.,
 The Age
 Mass Media
  4. 4. R.I.P., The Age of Mass Media* “We have left behind the age of mass media, and so large, national organizations–including and especially television – can no longer offer one-stop- shopping” … for advertisers or the audience. —City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism professor Jeff Jarvis, 2007 * Roughly 1955-1995, from the rise of the major TV networks to the arrival of the web browser.
  5. 5. R.I.P., The Age of Mass Media Gone is the age when a handful of editors— mostly white men—decided the news of the day. New officers of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, 1962 (Historic Images Outlet)
  6. 6. R.I.P., The Age of Mass Media And no one’s sadder about it than the giants of that era. U.S. newspaper ad revenue 
 Newspaper Association of America)
  7. 7. R.I.P., The Age of Mass Media Now, reporters are more often than not among the last to learn of—or at least to report— breaking news.
  8. 8. R.I.P., The Age of Mass Media And now everything is so much faster: The competition, the news gathering, the publication, the follow-up reporting …
  9. 9. R.I.P., The Age of Mass Media … and what used to be a joke—the one- man reporting band—is now reality.
  10. 10. R.I.P. also, The Age of ‘Objective’ Media … when a handful of large news organizations aspired to grow larger (and to avoid ticking off advertisers) by serving—or at least portraying themselves as serving— everyone. “Traditional media outlets’ intense desire to be perceived as sober and objective, and thus to be respected by conservatives and liberals alike [was] a business imperative that has been transmuted into an ethical injunction." —Will Oremus in Slate, January 2017
  11. 11. R.I.P., The Age of ‘Objective’ Media Often resulting in what NYU professor
 Jay Rosen
 has called … “The View from Nowhere … a bid for trust that advertises the viewlessness of the news producer. …
  12. 12. R.I.P., The Age of ‘Objective’ Media NYU professor Jay Rosen: “These are two different ways of bidding for the confidence of the users.  “In the old way, one says: ‘I don’t have a horse in this race. I don’t have a view of the world that I’m defending. …’ “In the newer way, the logic is different. ‘Look, I’m not going to pretend that I have no view. Instead, I am going to level with you about where I’m coming from on this. So factor that in when you evaluate my report. Because I’ve done the work and this is what I’ve concluded.’” 
  13. 13. But this “new way” is a return to the way things were before the Age of Mass Media. Between 1930 and 1932, for instance, Chicago had no fewer than seven newspapers, and you probably got just the one that most closely matched your perspective. R.I.P., The Age of ‘Objective’ Media
  14. 14. So now you’re on your own… You have more choices for news than ever before—more great ones, and more terrible ones. How do you know which are which?
  15. 15. How to spot ‘fake news’*
  16. 16. How to spot ‘fake news’ It’s not a thing. It’s an oxymoron. If it’s news, it happened. If it’s fake, it’s not news. * *
  17. 17. How to spot fake not-news
  18. 18. How to spot not-news Read, listen or watch the whole thing before sharing—especially if you’re not confident of the source. How are you reacting to it? Are you intensely
 hoping the information turns out to be true? False? Check it out at sites like Snopes,
 PolitiFact or FactCheck. (If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.) (Or in the immortal motto of 
 the old Chicago City News Bureau:
 “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”)
  19. 19. Check it out. Is there a byline? Who is the author?
  20. 20. Check it out. Does the “Contact Us” email address
 match the domain (not a Gmail or Yahoo address)? Does a search for the website name 
 raise suspicions?
  21. 21. Consider the source. Does it have or follow 
 a code of ethics?
 [Is it The Onion?]
  22. 22. What about the source? How did you find it? Was it promoted on a website?
 (Which website?) 
 Did it show up in a social media feed?
 (Who shared it?)
 (Was it sent by someone you know?)
  23. 23. Is the source reliable? Does it cite and hyperlink to
 a variety of other sources
 —including experts? Do the facts it cites appear in reports 
 from other news outlets?
  24. 24. Is the source reliable? Does it run corrections?

  25. 25. Consider the headline or main message. Does it use excessive punctuation?!?! Does it use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS for EMPHASIS? Does it make a claim to reveal a secret 
 or tell you something The Media 
 don’t want you to know? A note on headlines …
  26. 26. Know the difference: Good headlines and Bad headlines
  27. 27. Good headlines Connect content with the maximum number of people to whom it’s useful and relevant. They begin with the most interesting words. They’re brief; they omit needless words. They create—and reward—curiosity.
  28. 28. Bad headlines Fail to connect content with people who’d find it useful and relevant. They’re long, boring and irrelevant. They don’t spotlight interesting words. They generate little curiosity. Or they … Connect content with people to whom it’s neither useful nor relevant (turning them off to future communication).
  29. 29. Are the images reliable? Can you confirm, using a reverse image search, that they haven’t been altered or taken from some other context? Phony sites often use a real image from an unrelated event. But even if a source is reliable …
  30. 30. Is it timely? Check the date. Search for the subject to find out if anything newer has happened.
  31. 31. Remember … Copying an existing website 
 and creating fake tweets 
 is easy.
 Bots are active in social media and they’re designed to dominate conversations and spread propaganda.
  32. 32. Is this really a problem? Will it be for long? Remember when people needed lessons in how to search the Web?
  33. 33. How to manage your news flow (in and out)
  34. 34. How to manage your news flow 1. Follow smart people. 2. Let them power your news intake and output.
  35. 35. Connect with (smart) friends relentlessly.
  36. 36. Follow smart people. Twitter and Facebook can help, especially after you’ve entered a few names.
  37. 37. Follow smart people. … and the people they follow!
 Twitter and Facebook can help, especially after you’ve entered a few names.
  38. 38. Follow smart people.
  39. 39. Follow smart people.
  40. 40. Turn off alerts,
 email advisories, etc. Check when you want to, not when summoned.
  41. 41. Turn off your phone’s buzzing and other intrusive notifications for all but the most important communication.
  42. 42. And then … Share smart.
  43. 43. Post interesting stuff from your phone. Share smart.
  44. 44. Not sure what to say? Copy and paste the most interesting passage from the content you’re sharing.* *But don’t forget the quotation marks. Share smart.
  45. 45. Twitter has added a Nuzzel-like feature Share smart.
  46. 46. Bonus: You can create a newsletter using Nuzzel. Share smart.
  47. 47. Connect Facebook to Twitter, or Twitter to Facebook (Note: You need to write something on Facebook for this to work. Otherwise, you just get a Twitter link without context.) Share smart.
  48. 48. But know the difference between posting to the public and posting to just friends.
 (Note: If you’ve linked Facebook and Twitter, only your public Facebook posts will share to Twitter.) Share smart.
  49. 49. This is just the start. Social media companies have created whole free courses to help you learn how to use their tools. Or just Google.
  50. 50. Writing
 counts. Pro tips.
  51. 51. Style counts. Pro tips.
  52. 52. And feel free to critique how I do it! Charlie Meyerson @Meyerson on Twitter
  53. 53. News literacy in a digital age Charlie Meyerson @Meyerson on Twitter