Your Advocate: an editor's blog

Why news literacy matters

In Your Advocate: an editor's blog

Chris Cobler

By Chris Cobler
March 16, 2017 at 11:58 a.m.
Updated March 16, 2017 at 11:58 a.m.



When the first personal computers arrived on the scene in the 1970s, we never dreamed where they would take us.


The Information Superhighway offers a bumpier ride than ever before.

We have talked a lot about these perils during our recent Victoria Advocate editorial board and ethics board meetings. As a trusted, 171-year-old newspaper, we feel obligated to offer some guidance to our readers.

We recognize the challenge is to cut through the partisan noise and promote news literacy. We don't want to tell our readers what to think; rather, we have a vested interest in helping you recognize journalism from other sources of information.

Publisher Dan Easton and I were talking recently about the many younger people who grew up as so-called digital natives and might have no frame of reference for how the traditional media operates. They have sped along the Information Superhighway their entire lives, so the signals of good journalism could be lost on them.

For them and all of our readers, we want to start a conversation about what you read on Facebook and elsewhere. We encourage you to direct your questions to me by posting comments on my blog at VictoriaAdvocate.com, emailing me at ccobler@vicad.com, or calling me directly at 574-1271. We want to focus on what separates good journalism from fake news, regardless of whether the source is from the left or the right.

Although our country feels more polarized than any other time in my lifetime, we maintain support for the First Amendment should be a nonpartisan issue. Our goal is to keep steering the conversation in that direction.

To help with this conversation, we will be referring to the Center for News Literacy's new online course called "Making Sense of the News." A free version of the six-part course is available, so please feel free to go online and work ahead.

The first lesson looks at how the power of information has shifted into the hands of consumers. Although that's an incredible advancement in many respects, the instructor points out four key challenges created by this change:

-- Information overload. We can be bombarded by so much information that we have trouble sorting out the credible from the fabricated.

-- Fake news. It's easier than ever to create content that looks like real news and spread it as fast as a click of a mouse.

-- Speed vs. accuracy. We are racing to get the news faster and faster to consumers.

-- Confirmation bias. We have a natural tendency to seek out information that supports, rather than challenges, what we already believe.

How do you deal with these challenges? Please share your concerns and specific examples of deliberately misleading information.




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