Updated: Apr 7, 2020
We live in some harrowing times, with coronavirus affecting the lives of people across the globe, rampant misinformation and public confusion only serve to exacerbate an already fragile situation. Here are some helpful tips to help you navigate the media storm and enhance your ability to subscribe to better sources of information.
1. Don’t Instantly React To A Newly Discovered Headline. Fact-Check First. Pause and hold off sharing, reposting and retweeting until reading the entire article and looking more closely at the source. While there is a virtual prize for being the first to break some juicy news or a headline, it can be very damaging to spread misinformation. Once the wrong perception is out there, its difficult to change people’s minds back to what’s right and you never know what can be at stake when people operate with poor information. If you’re searching on Google be sure to do more than one search and seek multiple sources to corroborate the data presented to you.
2. Categorise The Material You Come Across Articles may come in many shapes or forms. These include feature articles, opinion pieces, editorials, news features, sponsored content, blogs, voice notes etc. By identifying the type of content presented to you, you'll be in a better position to judge its validity. For instance in an opinion piece you may want to consider what argument the writer or producer of the content is putting forward. Opinion pieces may have and use accurate facts but the facts and data presented may have been strategically selected to paint a particular picture. Consider what sort of content authors are known for and make your own determination as to how much personality, bias, humour or passion is coming across. Remember that although writers may be biased, it may not may not necessarily mean the material is false, so be patient in your analysis of the piece to be able to extract the sense from nonsense.
3. Check Your Own Bias We all know that the writer of an article or the presenter of data can alter and arrange their information and colour any story based on their preconceived notions, beliefs or agenda. The same can be said about readers. When you’re reading or find a headline about a topic that you’re passionate about take a second to consider within yourself what you might want the article to say to you and what it might take for you to change your beliefs about that topic. By doing this you’ll in some way conquer your own bias and prepare yourself to really absorb the article for what it is. Remember that you shouldn't hold steadfastly to opinions and allow yours to be shaped and formed by the best information possible, even if it means realising you were wrong about something. After all, we're only human.
4. Consider & Promote Trusted Outlets Would you trust medical advice from anyone but a doctor? Would you drive over a bridge not approved and designed by engineers? I hope not! Take this same approach when considering the source of the information presented to you. Can you trust the individuals our group that is sharing that information with you? What may be their intent when sharing this information? What is the reputation of the organisation publishing the information? Have they just sprung up or are they long standing and likely to continue to exist and report on topics beyond the issue at hand. Do your best to make this determination and help others along the way, point out false news stories and highlight true, proven sources. It’s important that trusted media sources be recognised and venerated as their value to a free and democratic society should not be taken lightly.
5. Seek Transparency Down To The Root Source It’s important to know how stories came about and where they originated. Professional journalists and researchers operate with transparency and allow you to know where they source their data and how they found it. Seek articles with sufficient citations and references that validate the claims and findings presented. A lack of sufficient support can be a tell tale sign of a poor source or manipulation of information.
This is by no means a conclusive list, but it’s a great start in the right direction particularly during these trying times as the world battles the coronavirus.
•Five Editor Approved Tips for Media Literacy in Any Class (https://medium.com/edmodoblog/five-editor-approved-tips-for-media-literacy-in-any-class-ffb2a224eab6)
•4 Tips to Teach Students News Media Literacy in the Digital Age ( https://www.hmhco.com/blog/4-tips-to-teach-students-news-media-literacy-in-the-digital-age )