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NEWS LITERACY 101: How professors teach the importance of accuracy

Crucial skill to be ready for transition to newsroom
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Posted at 1:04 PM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 08:30:52-05
"I think news literacy is absolutely a crisis in society right now."

WHAT FUTURE JOURNALISTS NEED TO SUCCEED

Young people today are dealing with the most challenging information landscape in human history, according to the News Literacy Project. That means the next generation of journalists will face even more challenges.

"It's concerning that, so few students come in understanding the difference between news, opinion, fake news," said Professor Michael McKisson, interim director of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.

KGUN 9 spoke with McKisson to learn how he teaches students to look out for misinformation.

"Really a big topic is understanding what news media is and determining the difference between legitimate news and information and fake news, or disinformation or propaganda," said Professor McKisson.

Understanding what a legitimate news source is, is even trickier nowadays.

WHO ARE THE CREDIBLE SOURCES?

"We know that fake news outlets have gotten really good at disguising their product to make it look like legitimate news." — Professor McKisson

The confusion between opinion pieces and actual news articles is something Professor McKisson says he sees way too often.

"I can't tell you how many times you see on social media, 'Oh this was so biased.'. I'm like, it's an opinion article. Of course, it is. That's their opinion," said Professor McKisson.

To help future journalists find credible sources, Professor McKission says throughout the whole semester students are assigned a different media outlet.

"We've got Fox News on there. We've got MSNBC. We've got CNN. We've got the New York times. We've got the LA times," Professor McKisson said.

Students are asked to go deeper than reading the headline.

"Who are the sources? What's the information? Then go look at other outlets. How are they reporting it?" said Professor McKisson.

By doing that, Professor Mckisson says students start to arm themselves with the tools they need to become journalists that you can trust.

"Once students start to see that the more you consume about a topic, the more knowledgeable you are in general. They start to become much less susceptible to being duped or to buying into the fake news," said Professor McKisson.

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STEPS TO VETTING NEWS SOURCES

With many sources competing for attention, there are five ways to recognize credible information.

  1. Do a quick search: Conducting a simple search for information about a news source is a key first step in evaluating its credibility.
  2. Look for standards: Reputable news organizations aspire to ethical guidelines and standards, including fairness, accuracy and independence.
  3. Check for transparency: Quality news sources should be transparent, not only about their reporting practices (see above), but also about their ownership and funding.
  4. Examine how errors are handled: Credible news sources are accountable for mistakes and correct them. Do you see evidence that this source corrects or clarifies errors?
  5. Assess news coverage: An important step in vetting sources is taking time to read and assess several news articles.