Guest opinion: The importance of news literacy
News literacy is the ability to recognize the standards of fact-based news in order to trust, share and act on accurate information. In a Digital Age where information spreads like wildfire, it is becoming more challenging than ever to separate fact from fiction. Anyone has the ability to create and share information, whether true or false. News literacy teaches about the importance of a free press in our democracy while also demonstrating how to decipher credible information to determine what is trustworthy.
The Digital Age poses four major threats to the functioning of a democracy:
- The constant, overwhelming flow of information we receive daily makes it difficult to determine what is fact or fiction.
- The creation of new, widespread platforms leads to more ways for misinformation to be published in a way that makes it look like it is coming from a credible source.
- The desire for information to be distributed as fast as possible results in more room for inaccuracy and increases the chance that information shared will be wrong.
- New algorithms have made it so that much of the information we see reinforces our preexisting beliefs rather than opening us up to alternative perspectives.
Readers are fortunate to have the Vail Daily as a source of credible information. However, the closure of hundreds of local newspapers in neighboring rural communities has led to the creation of “news deserts” in places with smaller populations, leaving individuals to struggle for access to credible news sources and causing vulnerability to misinformation.
According to the 2022 State of Local News Report, more than one-fifth of the U.S. population, 70 million people, are currently living in news deserts. For this reason, it is now more critical than ever for individuals to assess their news literacy skills and build habits to determine what is true and credible.
A healthy society can only exist if the public is well-informed. If we can’t agree on a set of basic facts, we are unable to make knowledgeable decisions that are for the betterment of our democracy. Although it is impossible for the sharing of misinformation to be eliminated, our society can begin to build habits that fight the spread.
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The News Literacy Project invites readers of the Vail Daily to be part of the movement and “Think Before You Share” by answering the following questions to evaluate the credibility of a claim:
- Is the information I am sharing authentic?
- Has it been posted or confirmed by a credible source?
- Is there evidence that proves the claim?
- Is the context accurate?
- Is it based on solid reasoning?
A new generation of news-literate individuals that demand credible, accurate information will not only amend the foundations of journalism but will also reshape the standards of a healthy democracy.