Editorial: Media literacy is key to online reading

News media continue to deliver their content online, a place where information is easily accessible whether it is true or not. In the wake of the digital information age, disbelief and trust in information has fluctuated. The Northern Star Editorial Board urges everyone to develop their media literacy skills before accepting online information at face value and forming judgments or opinions.

Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze and evaluate media in different forms, depending on the Media Education Center. The Editorial Board believes that the skill is incredibly relevant and necessary for news consumption.

News consumers should be selective about where they find their news. About 55% of American adults sometimes or often use social media to get their news, according to a January 2021 Pew Research Center study. The problem on social media platforms is that articles, whether from a reliable news site or an unverified source, are equally accessible.

People who use social media as their primary source of political information are less likely to engage in the news, follow the news closely, and tend to be less informed about current events, according to American News Pathways d a center of November 2020. study.

It is particularly crucial for the public to detect and analyze the media, as the widespread dissemination of disinformation has directly affected trust in the news and public opinion. Readers will often criticize newspapers and news sources for their political bias. However, these judgments may come from misleading and competing information from articles containing fake news, speculation and conspiracy theories.

For example, some people still believe there was no foreign involvement in the 2016 and 2020 elections, and major news sites running stories about the interference were politically biased. However, Facebook has had to take down more than 100 networks worldwide for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior since Facebook began investigating the issue in 2017. Coordinated inauthentic behavior occurs when groups, campaigns, accounts, or pages deliberately share misleading information to manipulate public discourse. These accounts took action before major Democratic elections, according to Facebook’s Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior in August 2020 report. Facebook found a dozen networks linked to the Russian Internet Research Agency. The report said two networks removed in 2020 were IRA-related campaigns pretending to be news entities on the social media site.

People who often get their news from social media were also more likely to see and hear the conspiracy claiming COVID-19 was intentionally planned, according to a June 2020 Pew Research study. study.

The editorial board believes that people should read entire articles and read often to hone their critical analysis skills. Readers often spend less than 15 seconds browsing articles, according to a Chartbeat study. That’s not enough time to absorb or engage with the information. News consumers may not be aware of some unfavorable but widespread news conventions, such as the use of sensational headlines to increase engagement. Headlines and images accompanying stories are not always accurate representations of the main point of an article in digital news.

Any article or publication can be set up on a platform, although news requires more research and verification. The Editorial Board believes that news consumers need to stay alert and learn media literacy skills to critically analyze the media they consume.