News Media Literacy is suddenly everywhere!

So much going on now that everyone suddenly wants to talk media literacy and “fake news”! While the circumstances are unfortunate, the silver lining these days is the increase in awareness and interest in these important topics. I’m actually on sabbatical this semester, but I’m keeping pretty busy…

I recently got to participate in Boise Weekly’s “Citizen” feature in a Q&A titled, “The essential nature of media literacy and fact vs. fiction.”

As for research, I have two new publications I’m excited about:

One is in the Journal of Media Literacy Education titled “News Media Literacy and Political Engagement: What’s the Connection?” In this study, I and fellow co-authors Stephanie Craft at University of Illinois and Adam Maksl at Indiana University Southeast found that individuals with higher levels of news media literacy also have higher levels of political engagement.

We also have an article in the journal Communication and the Public titled “News Media Literacy and Conspiracy Theory Endorsement.” In this article, we found that higher levels of news media literacy are related to lower endorsement of conspiracy theories.

Together, I hope these two publications help make the case for the importance of news media literacy in democratic society, particularly in the context of today’s messy information environment. Our theory-based approach goes beyond the typical notion of news literacy, which is often limited to fact-checking and hoax-spotting. While these skills are important, this research illustrates the need for holistic knowledge of the media system and its impact.

Our definition of news media literacy centers on knowledge about how the news industry works, how outside forces influence content and how content affects consumers. We also examine individuals’ motivations for news consumption and feelings of control over their consumption.

Looking ahead, Adam and I have a book under contract with publisher ABC-CLIO. It’s a reference book called “American Journalism and Fake News: Examining the Facts.”

Finally, I’ve had lots of chances to share the gospel of news media literacy, including Oct. 6 at the Idaho Library Association conference as part of a panel on media literacy, and at an Albertsons Library session on combating misinformation on Oct. 24.

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About Seth

Journalism and media studies professor
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