Media Literacy – We Could All Use a Bit More of it!
By: Rosemary Smith, Managing Director Getting Better Foundation
If you believe everything you read and hear about violent conflict, the environment, human health and poverty, you might think that the world has become a very troubled and dangerous place.
The facts tell a different story.
While these one-time events may make our blood boil and raise our fear factor, our world today is safer, healthier, more positive and productive than ever before. Never in history has the per-capita involvement in crime and war been lower. Never have human beings been healthier and better educated.
Unfortunately, the gap between reality and people’s perceptions is great. Grim views of the world deprive people of optimism, generate fear and create a sense of hopelessness. This stifles creativity and innovation, causing society to live and suffer under a pall of negativity. The most damaging effect has been the decline of trust. People who do not trust one another do not help one another. Repetitive reporting of a violent event increases the chance of a copy-cat or intensified criminal act, and the cycle continues. This lack of trust promotes societal divisions..
WHAT IS CAUSING THIS AND WHY?
Do you know why so many media outlets deliver an unbalanced offering of negative versus positive information?
Do you know why your attention as a human being becomes riveted to a broadcast or article that has to do with violence or other bad news?
Do you know how to judge the validity of the sources of the media you consume?
Humankind has never experienced such an avalanche of negative news coverage as we do today. It’s paramount that we know the answers to the questions above. Here are some reminders as to why this is true and important to you and those you love:
Editorial coverage motivated primarily or solely by profit: Many U.S. media outlets meet high journalistic standards. Too many, however, are driven by the need or desire to capitalize on sensational news. Countless outlets give undue weight to stories about crime, conflict and poverty, under-reporting news of positive human behavior and progress.
Lack of media literacy: Because of a widespread inability to objectively absorb and weigh news, too many of us disseminate biased and inaccurate information about vital issues. “Fake news” is nothing new. Our nation’s freedom of the press has long given publishers, broadcasters and, more recently, writers on social media platforms free rein to hype scandals, generate conspiracies and sensationalize their reports. Adolescents, struggling to juggle the abundance of news availability, fail to read “the rest of the story” – content to surf headlines, then “sharing” them.
Frequency of exposure to negative news: “Always on” mobile devices deliver content nonstop from proliferating news sources, crime-related TV shows, blogs, texts, emails and social media. As a result, more of us are increasingly exposed to negative and/or false information. Add to that the “click bait” options, and it’s easy to see that we’re dealing with an unprecedented onslaught of negative news. To put it simply: We’re getting hit from all sides, and need the skills to sift through the rubbish to find reliable information.
These factors are undermining trust. Trust enhances empathy. Empathy encourages people to help one another. Caring people must learn to cope with the onslaught of information so that they can best use their knowledge for the common good.
WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT?
We’re helping create a culture of trust built on scientific research and unimpeachable facts, shared in the media and on the ground through a network of advocates who are passionate purveyors of empirical truth. We believe we can arm future generations with curriculum as their weapon… curriculum that includes responsible reporting and consumption of media. With media literacy, we can effectively digest the influx of content streamed through our smart devices. We’d use media literacy to spread truth, optimism and a sense of well-being instead of causing more anxiety from negativity and false news.
The Getting Better Foundation seeks to build trust through truth and media literacy. People who trust one another are more likely to help one another. The more people help one another, the better our world will be.