News Literacy: The 7 News Habits You Need to Develop
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We’re a generation drowning in news. Everybody reports, rehashes, comments, shares, recommends, likes, aggregates and spins it. Articles written by artificial intelligence, content farms, satirical sites, fake news sites, PR campaigns, or for native advertising compete for our attention and blur the distinctions between news and, well, everything else.
Yet paradoxically, we’re starving for news because our consumption habits aren’t healthy. We don’t know how to untangle the snarl of news, entertainment ads and propaganda on our social media feeds, mobile devices, inboxes, television and radio. We fear fake news is undermining democracy, and we’re afraid to trust the mainstream news industry because of a visceral feeling that it’s part of the problem.
But what bothers us most of all?
Deep down, we know that a healthy democratic society needs professional journalists to inform us about what’s going on in our communities and around the world, to hold those in power accountable, and to set the tone of public discourse. Yet, we could be smacked in the face with quality journalism and never recognize it. We lack the necessary news literacy skills.
Change begins with ourselves.
Just as good eating requires a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy, good news-consumption also requires certain practices. Recognizing this, schools and universities have begun teaching news literacy. New York’s Stony Brook University, which pioneered news literacy curriculum, defines news literacy as “developing critical thinking skills in order to judge the reliability and credibility of information, whether it comes via print, television or the Internet.”
Follow these seven habits to boost your news literacy and you’ll find yourself better informed and a better contributor to the public discourse.
Summary of Habits
- Set aside your own personal biases or at least own what they are.
- Maintain your focus on fewer main issues and read several sources for information.
- Diversify your new sources.
- Distinguish between journalism and other forms of info.
- Discern between journalism’s approaches of verification vs. assertion
- Identify what’s new and why now.
- Test yourself.