National News Literacy Week starts today as part of a campaign to promote knowledge of current events—a fundamental life skill—and provide tools to inform and empower the public.
“The corrosive threat of misinformation now permeates every aspect of our civic life,” said Alan C. Miller, founder and CEO of the News Literacy Project, in a statement. “We’ve seen it surge in the past year around the global pandemic, racial justice protests and during the presidential election.”
The News Literacy Project and The E.W. Scripps Company partnered to first launch the campaign last year.
Miller pointed to the recent assault on the Capitol as evidence that viral rumors and conspiracy theories can have deadly consequences and even threaten America’s democracy.
“Together, we must take personal responsibility for the news and other information we consume and share to assure a future founded on facts,” Miller added.
The public can get involved by visiting NewsLiteracyWeek.org and take news literacy quizzes (including those geared toward liberals and conservatives); watching a virtual lesson on how and why conspiracy theories develop; and take part in social media discussions using the hashtag #NewsLiteracyWeek.
According to a Gallup poll published in September, six in 10 U.S. adults say they have “not very much” trust or “none at all” in the mass media.
Misinformation, the spread of false information regardless of intent to mislead, and disinformation, the deliberate spread of false information by manipulating a narrative or facts, can further sow distrust of news agencies by the community they aim to serve.
Become a better news consumer by following these basic tips:
Is there a byline in the article?
Bylines usually appear underneath a headline and photo in an article. They tell the reader who wrote the story and holds the reporter accountable.
At the Post, you may also see bylines that say “staff reports.” These bylines are usually attached to briefs, or short news articles, based on press releases or limited information that a reporter or editor might quickly write up.
If you see bylines that say Associated Press, City News Service or CalMatters, these are our media partners and wire service providers. That means they are news agencies that sell their news or photos for republication to other news outlets like ours.
Is there an ‘About Us’ section and a bio for each writer?
Here at the Post, you can read about our history on our transparency portal and you can learn more about each journalist in the bio section at the end of each article. This information holds news outlets and their journalists further accountable and usually tells the reader about each writer’s experience and expertise.
Are articles properly tagged to differentiate news from opinion?
It is common practice for news publications (including broadcast, print and digital) to publish opinion pieces by columnists or community members. While these pieces use facts and data to support opinion they should, in no way, be considered straight news.
The Post labels these kinds of pieces with “opinion” or “column” tags that can be found under the Voices section on our website. Editorials are usually opinion pieces on current events or social issues that represent the voice of the publication. While an editorial is usually written by columnists or editors with journalistic experience, the Post has brought together seven community leaders to be the voice of the publication and offer individual opinion pieces. Read about the board here.
Read the same issue from multiple outlets
Reading the same issue from multiple media outlets gives the reader a wide range of perspectives and angles. Notice who the reporters quote and the source of their information.
Studies show this is especially true in diverse newsrooms where reporters from different backgrounds can provide more well-rounded coverage. Multilingualism and cultural sensitivity on behalf of reporters opens doors to new subjects and sources.
The Post is making strides in diversifying the newsroom. Last June, two bilingual emerging journalists were hired through the Report For America program.
Follow the story over time for updates
When stories begin as breaking news, it is common for reporters to update articles with more information–and in some cases clarify possible inaccurate information initially given. It is important to follow up on these stories in order to receive the most updated and accurate information.