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How News Literate Are You?

by Bobbie Eisenstock, Ph.D.  

Is a citizen journalist a journalist? What is a pseudo-journalist? Are you a gatewatcher? Does confirmation bias limit your worldview? Who sets your news agenda? Are you in an echo chamber and how can you escape it? What exactly is “fake news”? How do you find the facts and disrupt disinformation? 

If you know the answers to these questions, then you just might be news literate. If you are not sure how to answer, then you need to read News Literacy Now: How to “Read” the News (Peter Lang, 2023). The book is inspired by my students and based on a course I teach in the CSUN journalism department.  

Five years ago, I developed a new course called News Literacy. While I teach media literacy and news literacy in other courses about gender and diversity, I realized it was not enough.  

We are living in the Age of Disinformation when the culture of journalism is changing and false and misleading news online is creating confusion and uncertainty about basic facts. Yet many of us do not have the essential skills to sift through the daily deluge of messages and images and separate facts from falsehoods and unverified opinions.  

The objective of the News Literacy course and the book is to gain news media knowledge and skills that empower our news choices and the way we consume, create and share information in the digital world.  

News Literacy Now introduces a new approach to “read” the news that intersects media literacy, news literacy, information and web literacy skills. It explains a news media literacy framework that goes beyond analyzing the who, what, when, where, why and how of news storytelling to include skill-building strategies to detect bias and dig deeper into the news-gathering process and fact-checking techniques.  

Not your typical textbook, News Literacy Now is written in a Q and A format from the news consumer’s perspective. It asks and answers questions about our personal news experiences, the news process and journalism standards and practices, and the vital watchdog roles that journalists and a free press play in protecting democracy. The book provides a contextual understanding of the way news is produced, distributed, consumed, trusted and valued.  

Without news literacy skills, we may not know how to determine if a news story is factual or inaccurate, a comment or quote is credible or made up, or a meme or GIF is humorous or propaganda.  

We may not recognize if a piece of writing, photograph, audio or video is authentic, digitally manipulated or AI generated.  

We may not realize that the person with whom we are interacting on social media may be a chatbot and not who we think they are.  

We may not detect when algorithms drive us toward extreme political views or conspiracy theories. 

In News Literacy Now, you will learn about the Fourth Estate and the Fifth Estate, the shift from gatekeepers to gatewatchers and from agenda setting to agenda melding, what makes news reliable and a story newsworthy, and how confirmation bias and echo chambers can limit our worldview. You will become familiar with lateral reading, reverse image search, and other ways to evaluate the evidence, investigate the source, and verify the claims. You will also consider tips to talk to someone who has fallen down the disinformation rabbit hole.  

News media literacy has never mattered more. “Fake news” and “alternative facts” have created a polarizing news credibility crisis that has weaponized falsehoods and disrupted the flow of trustworthy news and information. Most of us get our news from social media where false information spreads faster and farther than factual news. This has enabled misinformation and disinformation to become a major threat to democracy around the world.  

News Literacy Now: How to “Read” the News will help you think like a journalist and search like a factchecker. This knowledge is crucial for anyone, regardless of age, who uses media and cares about the facts and the future health of our democracy.  

Just as journalists have a responsibility to pursue the truth and serve as watchdogs of wrongdoing on the public’s behalf, we, in turn, have a responsibility as citizens to keep informed and be a watchdog of the truth wherever we read the news. 

 Click here to read CSUN Today’s recent article about Prof. Eisenstock.

Eisenstock headshot Bobbie Eisenstock, Ph.D. specializes in the social-psychological effects of media on society and ways media and news literacy can empower personal and social change in the digital culture. She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Media Literacy Education and is an Affiliate of the Center for Media Literacy. Book website: NewsLiteracyNow.com  

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