News literacy as weapon against one-sided information of biased media

March 11, 2014   ·   0 Comments

12 March 2014, 02:41


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It’s been decades since the revolution of information sources brought about the phenomenon of media wars. Those wielding influence over the information sources shape the agenda, others consume what they are supposed to know. The nitty-gritty here is that all that we learn from the media is biased to a certain extent. The solution is news literacy. The idea originates in the US, where Stony Brook University launched a News Literacy Centre. Now the centre works with international partners and holds conferences worldwide. Radio VR’s Dasha Chernyshova attended a news Literacy conference at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics.

New here, news there and everywhere. A flood of information and misinformation is what we face every day and can access from anywhere at any time. But bias is something inherent in almost any media outlet. So finding the truth is an exercise that requires time and effort. This is why news literacy is for many scholars is of paramount importance. To seek out the truthJonathan Sanders, Associate professor of journalism at Stony Brooks University, advises the so-called VIA combination:

“We emphasize something called VIA – which means you have to verify your sources, they have to be independent sources, they have to be accountable source. Without that triple combination – verifiable, independent and accountable – you are dealing in the realm of propaganda, or advertisement or something else. What we are trying to make in news literacy – to give people the tool so that they can decide how the new makes sense to them and is believable.”

The wide majority of people do not challenge the information they receive and boldly take on the views of one source. To combat people’s reliance on one-sided information, Stony Brook University has established the Center for News Literacy, the only one of its kind in the US. The centre teaches students how to use critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports and newssources, The trend of having certain patterns of viewing things – developed over years and shaped by cultures, can be traced all the time. And the situation in Ukraine is one of those examples where truth finding should make you sweat.Dean Miller is a Professor of journalism at Stony Brook University:

“We humans are terrible at perceiving the truth, emotions make a huge impact on whether we you and I see the same events the same way. So doing the events like this, people are going to default to sources of information that are comfortable to them, that reinforce their biases either way. So perhaps at a time like this the most important lesson that we teach our students is to get outside the comfort zone, to go to sources of information that can challenge their bias. In addition we certainly admit that there may be certainly bias in the reporting itself. So it’s important to sample a wide range of media sources. It’s important not to make up your mind too quickly, truth is provisional. The fact is that evidence accumulates over time. So what we believe to be true today may be very different from what we believe is true tomorrow, as more evidence accumulates.”

The truth is always a combination of factors and taking white or black side is normally a poor choice. But it is our nature that should be challenged to see the truth, to check out reports of all the sides involved. This appears to be the only way to get rid of any bias, and see the real complexity of the situation. Jonathan Sanders again:

“People see things through filters in their minds, through pre-existing pictures that they hold and they want to make representational. I try to teach my students that there is no such thing as objectivity, that it’s a goal to be desired as people want to establish themselves in profession. But one has to strive not to be non-objective. That is a different side to this – not to be non-objective. And I think cross cutting of information helps a great deal. Sometimes in highly ideological, hormonal nationalist situation like the one that is going on in Ukraine, both sides go to extremes, are not listening to each other, that third and fourth groups of people involved are better to look at. That it’s very hard to get the truth from either side. And in Washington people right now only want to hear bad things about Russia, and good things about Ukraine. And have you ever met two people who are really pure, it’s not that simple, it’s complicated, things are going both ways, especially in a crisis period that builds on hormonal nationalism, it is very hard top seek out the truth, everyone wants to have an enemy image, somebody to blame something on, they don’t want to see the complexity of the situation.”

News literacy is normally something taught to those who need it in their jobs, but in our age it seems necessary to everyone. Information is power, and empowering yourself is what we all need to have true judgments.

Dasha Chernyshova



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