Facts matter, but news literacy does, too
It’s a slogan emblazoned on Post-It notes and mugs seen lying around the Post Bulletin’s new office overlooking U.S. Highway 52.
One of the first office treats I received (us journos love office treats) came with a "Facts matter" Post-It stuck on top: "No PTO sucks, but happy holidays!" Fact.
Facts matter, not only in journalism, where it’s our job to report the facts, but to all consumers of information, especially in this age of digital overload.
How many times has a "news article" ignited a Facebook firestorm before someone pointed out its less-than-credible source?
How many times have family members refused to speak to each other after clashing over their version of "the facts"?
How many times has someone sworn off a certain food because one small study told them to, then evangelized its findings to anyone who would listen?
The ability to discern fact from fiction is a skill everyone, not just journalists, should take seriously and work to develop.
Learning to read headlines, articles and clinical studies with a critical eye can help prevent unnecessary conflict — on social media, across the dinner table, and in professional circles.
This week, the first-ever National News Literacy Week, The E.W. Scripps Company is pairing with the nonprofit News Literacy Project to help.
The purpose of the designation, and the resources made available to the public at NewsLiteracyWeek.org , is to raise awareness of "news literacy as a fundamental life skill."
Broadcasting company Scripps and the News Literacy Project define news literacy as "the ability to determine what is credible and what is not, to identify different types of information, and to use the standards of authoritative, fact-based journalism as an aspirational measure in deciding what to trust, what to share and what to act on."
It is largely up to us, as seasoned journalists, to "get the facts straight," to provide appropriate context, and to deliver that authoritative, fact-based journalism as trusted guardians of your local and regional news. We work hard, and we’ll continue to work hard, to earn and keep your trust in that role.
But it is also up to us, as individuals, across all professions and walks of life, to learn how to consume information not blindly, but with our eyes (and minds) wide open.
Here is the daily schedule of themes (and their related Checkology virtual-classroom lessons) that will be posted online this week at NewsLiteracyWeek.org :
- Today:Navigating the information landscape ("InfoZones")
- Tuesday:Identifying standards-based journalism ("Practicing Quality Journalism")
- Wednesday:Understanding bias — your own and others’ ("Understanding Bias")
- Thursday:Celebrating the role of a free press ("Democracy’s Watchdog")
- Friday:Recognizing misinformation ("Misinformation")