From the Editorial Desk: Strengthen your media literacy skills during National Media Literacy Week

It’s not always pleasant to look back on the 2020-2021 academic year.

As the coronavirus pandemic has to spill the second half of the 2019-2020 school year, my whole freshman year was defined by the pandemic and the online courses that followed. My off-campus apartment was also my classroom, and the blur between home and school life was overwhelming at times. Despite the challenges of online learning, I took some of my favorite courses so far last year. One class in particular feels incredibly important when looking at today’s media and political landscapes.

During the spring semester, I took a course called News and Information Literacy. It’s a journalism course that “encourages critical analysis of media content with a focus on news and strategic communication,” according to OU. website.

Despite the online teaching, I still learned a lot from this course and all the material offered to us in the virtual classroom. Some of the documents were familiar to me as a journalist specializing in journalism and a student, while other statistics and documents that I learned were more shocking.

Whether in the classroom or not, it is important to be fluent in the news in order to be a conscientious consumer of news and information. There’s no better time than now to get started.

January 24-28 marks National News Literacy Week. The week Goals raise awareness of the importance of information literacy as a life skill and for sustaining democracy.

When one is not aware of the news, it can have a ripple effect on society. Not only can one consume and view misinformation as fact, but one can share that misinformation with others, creating an echo chamber where information is affirmed and leads to further consumption of misinformation for everyone involved.

That’s not to say that everyone who consumes misinformation or doesn’t know the news has malicious intent. Some of this is simply a byproduct of our growing online world, where a plethora of information is always at our fingertips. The internet, whether we like it or not, is a double-edged sword, and we have to learn how to wield it.

As students who grew up surrounded by technology, we are not automatically wizards at navigating the Internet and determining what information is true or not. If you don’t believe me, just spend a minute on Athens YikYak and see what people fall for without verifying it with a credible source.

For Bobcats looking to test and improve their news skills, there are a variety of free resources you can find online to help. A good starting point is the Information Education Project, or NLP. NLP is a nonprofit institute with resources for educators and the general public. You can access quizzes and other activities that test your information literacy skills on its websiteor you can download its app, Informable, to play “games” that will help boost your literacy skills.

Knowing the news also extends to your social media habits. Simply reading an article before tweeting it or reposting it to your Instagram Story can stop the spread of misinformation. And remember: there’s always more to a story than what you can get on an Instagram chart. Let your search for topics extend beyond your feed.

My News and Information Literacy course really challenged me to look more critically at the online information I trusted. While not everyone has the opportunity to take an information literacy course in school, that doesn’t mean education stops outside the classroom. Take a few minutes during National News Literacy Week to test yourself on your news literacy — you might be surprised how much you know.

Abby Miller is a journalism and political science student at Ohio University and editor of The post office. Have questions? Email Abby at [email protected] or tweet it @abblawrence.

Dwight E. Schulz