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The importance of media literacy

Thursday 26 November 2015, by SIGNIS

Huntington, Brussels, November 26th, 2015 (SIGNIS/Parthenon). Recently, the Parthenon, the American student newspaper of Marshall University in Huntington, published an editorial pleading for media literacy.

Media literacy is something journalism students at Marshall University are very familiar with. Students learn about sources and what counts as reputable, thus enabling students to later determine if the people they talk to for their future stories can be trusted as legitimate sources of information.

Often times, media literacy is overlooked, or categorized as an unimportant class to non-majors, or those who maybe take a course on the subject just to fill hours.

In a time where sharing your thoughts and opinions is as simple as pressing “share now” on Facebook, it is increasingly important to promote media literacy. It is this blind faith of sources that leads to people perpetuating sensationalism and injecting misinformation directly into the feed of their social media friends.

It can be assumed that hundreds of thousands of users are mislead on Facebook daily. Sharing posts about President Barack Obama signing some absurd bill, court hearings about ridiculous crimes, or posts about weird, Dr. Drew-esque ailments keeps users and their friends in a cloud of fear.

Making media literacy a general education requirement regardless of program could potentially help social media users avoid falling for lies, whether they are blatant or deep in a story itself.

Sites like snopes.com and their writers dedicate themselves to clearing up online rumors and disproving those websites so commonly shared on Facebook. Snopes breaks up posts like the Chik-Fil-A free nugget day (mostly false, sorry), but if literacy classes were taught in most universities, a site like Snopes would not need to be so active. People could independently research their sources and make the decision to use the source or not. Instead of wading through a feed cluttered with fake posts, users could see actual news articles written by actual journalists who actually have careers in the field instead of a suburban homebody, typing up whatever they decide to write about.

In the mean time, those who are more literate when it comes to media sources should let their friends know whether or not something can be trusted. Letting others know what’s credible and what isn’t can be a small solace in a time of constant calumny.

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