News Literacy

Published on 22nd September 2020

Nowadays people consume news as much as they consume other basic necessities of life, but they have to be news literate or else they run the risk of subsisting on fake news. What is news literacy, then? It is the ability to be analytical and to know what to believe and what not to believe. However, developing this analytical skill is not that simple, for it needs continual observation and understanding.

Due to diverse media outlets, people usually get their information from more than one form of media. For example, they can get news from the Internet, television, radio, or newspapers and periodicals. While it is the responsibility of those who produce news to be ethical and generate credible news, news consumers can be misled for one reason or another, thereby hindering their ability to take informed decisions.

Every journalist is obligated to abide by a set of journalistic values when gathering and disseminating news to audiences. The journalistic values include truth, accuracy, fairness, impartiality, accountability, and humanity. These are the guiding principles of every principled journalist. Nevertheless, not every journalist adheres to these principles, as people are people. So when the individual journalist shuns the aforesaid rules, he or she produces news that is neither sourced nor verified and provides the public with fake news that negatively affects their decisions and actions. To reiterate, the particular journalist has to give his or her audience authentic news.

To avoid misleading and deception, people should be news literate so that they can critically analyze provided information.  In other words, they should judge the reliability and credibility of news reports, irrespective of their channels. How can people become news literate, though? Well, that is the point of this article. To be versed in something does not come overnight; repetition and persistence are key ingredients.

Today’s world is drowning in news, for everybody is creating and disseminating information. More specifically online information is the most deceptive thing. Yes, too much ambiguous information is on the Internet, and people should be rightly concerned with that fact. Produced and provided by unskilled and unscrupulous individuals, unsubstantiated news is rampant and is confusing innocent citizens.

The general public is often fed with plagiarized news. Plagiarism is another way to betray the audience. To plagiarise is to cut and paste someone else’s work. To put it plainly, it is to steal someone else’s intellectual property; or is it called “Intellectual property theft”? In this Internet age, individuals who plagiarize news and portray it as a new content are too many and are all over the place. They use and abuse the digital age and generate all sorts of false news. They upload audio/visual contents on their Facebooks and YouTube pages.

These amateur, unprincipled individuals are called “You Tubers”; many of them are committed to making money and fame, and can have millions of subscribers. Because they practise unethical journalism, they recycle untimely scenes and outdated images, and flood their viewers with false information, and are inconsiderate of inflicted damages. Money is their driving goal. Therefore, the individual audience should understand that such profiteers exist, and when the audience is aware of the You Tubers’ scandalous news, the audience can stay away from their nefarious propaganda.

How does one differentiate between genuine news and fake news? Genuine news is balanced and objective, false news is not. The genuine news comes from verified, multiple sources; the fake news is one-sided and does not have any mentionable sources. The authentic news is to help the general public, but the phony news is to gain a personal objective. The two are totally different, and thus news literacy is about distinguishing between the two of them. What is genuine, what is not?

Now that the article has explained the significance of news literacy and the effect of good journalism, it is time to take the bull by the horn, so to speak, and scrutinize consumed news. After all, journalism is meant to inform, educate, and entertain people, not to mislead while masquerading as real news. Indeed, principled media make people think, make them reflect, and help them reach informed decisions.

By Mohamed Abdi 

Email: [email protected]

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