What started as the Food Pyramid is now the Healthy Eating Plate. This handy-dandy guide helps Americans make good choices when it comes to creating balanced meals. From the amount of grains we need to proteins and healthy plant oils, the USDA has us all covered, yet Americans tend to ignore those healthy eating guidelines which explains the nearly $70 billion weight loss market in our nation.
Unfortunately, nearly the same pattern exists when it comes to Americans and News Literacy. Too many people in our nation cannot tell the difference between fact and opinion, and what is real and fake. Just like those Healthy Eating Plates, I have seen more graphics shared with students about how to consume a better news diet. Now teachers are not only trying to educate us on the differences between broccoli and chocolate intake, they are covering topics like how to tell the difference between satire and actual news.
Teachers cannot solve the News Literacy problem alone. I firmly believe that journalists can help by embracing and practicing key components of News Literacy. We can help our nation consume a healthier news diet.
These are just a few ways I feel that I can lead the charge in promoting News Literacy in our nation.
#1. Journalists must separate and label fact from opinion. We cannot assume our public knows the difference.
Too often I see an opinion segment presented as a news segment. Op-Ed belongs in a blog, editorial page, or commentary section of a newscast. It should be clearly stated as an opinion and not fact for the public.
In December, my high school encountered this problem. The school newspaper The Advocate published an opinion piece about marching band not being a sport in the sports section. Many students and teachers were hurt and upset about the piece, thinking it was a factual story that bashed band kids. In reality, it was just a student journalist voicing his opinion on the topic. There was a lot of debate and confusion regarding the whole situation because our newspaper did not label the story as an opinion piece, and they most certainly experienced the consequences.
"Nearly 8 out of 10 Journalists say their employers should make the difference between news and opinion pieces more distinct."
Media Insight Project, 2018
#2. News is more meaningful when the journalist is transparent and credible.
I firmly believe in the power of the byline. It is critical that the audience knows who produced the journalistic piece. If there is no byline, then who is to be held accountable? Stories and broadcasts don't just create themselves. The public we serve deserves transparent and credible journalists.
#3. To remain trusted, a journalist must act independently and without bias or an agenda.
Journalists are humans and will have their own opinions and biases. However, it's not our job to act with a hidden agenda to sway the public. Our job is to let the people we interview have opinions, while we simply state the facts. Even though there's been more journalists coming forth to say that it's "only fair" to admit for whom they vote, I disagree. I do not intend to share my personal political views because that is not my job. It's up to me to present the facts so the American public can make their own choices.
"Quality news outlets protect the independence of their reporting with policies that insulate newsrooms from the influence
of opinionators and advertisers."
The News Literacy Project, 2019
#4. Consume a healthy news diet.
For me to expect the people I serve are only getting their news from the newspaper or television station I end up working for is not only egotistical, but unethical. It only makes sense that all journalists encourage the American public to get their news from a variety of sources in order to best understand what is transpiring in their world. As a matter of fact, I am already practicing this by watching many news broadcasts like CNN, NBC Nightly News, and local news stations. In addition, I follow different journalists on Twitter and Facebook to gain different perspective on situations. Some of the journalists I follow are Lester Holt with NBC, Emily Rau an ABC Freelance Correspondent, Meridith McGraw an ABC White House reporter, and journalist Katie Couric.
Ultimately, our democracy depends on a free press. Journalists have a responsibility to uphold. It's not something I take lightly. As I enter this profession, I look forward to helping people embrace News Literacy by following the four steps listed above. In time, I will add more to the list, but for now this is a good start.