News Literacy class at FGCU helps students discern fact from fiction
By Lauren Miceli
*Lauren Miceli is a TA for one of Lyn Millner’s News Literacy sections
*WGCU studios inspired this piece by discussing the topic in a recent podcast https://news.wgcu.org/post/critical-importance-media-literacy-todays-world
WGCU Public Media highlighted News Literacy, a class Florida Gulf Coast University offers, to recognize Media Literacy Week.
From Oct. 21 to 25, the National Association for Media Literacy Education hosted the fifth annual Media Literacy Week. The NAMLE, inspired by Canada’s Media Literacy Week, created its own week to bring attention and visibility to media literacy education in the United States.
The internet and social media have made finding reliable information a challenge, so courses like News Literacy help students become more critical consumers of media. They also help develop students’ abilities to differentiate factual news from false material.
“Students especially need to be able to make informed decisions,” said Professor Lyn Millner, the founder of FGCU’s journalism program. “They are standing in a fire hose of information right now.”
News used to be disseminated in a controlled manner. Consumers could rely on a select few outlets to deliver news they were able to believe was relatively accurate and honest. Now anyone can post anything at any time, which can lead to confusion.
“As new people come into the media consumption market, like students, they don’t know that NBC is more legitimate than some blog,” said Mike Kiniry, a producer and podcast host at WGCU.
Offering classes focused solely on news literacy stemmed from the Stony Brook University School of Journalism’s Center for News Literacy. That center was created around 2007, which is when the larger movement for media literacy began.
At FGCU, any student at the university can enroll in the course. Students receive general education credit, and journalism majors are required to take the class before they begin any upper-level journalism courses.
“I still use elements of News Literacy in my daily life,” said Matt Kaminski, a senior in FGCU’s journalism program. “I wouldn’t be the same news consumer or writer without the knowledge I gained from that course.”
Kaminski took News Literacy during the spring 2017 semester, and he went into the class not fully knowing how to decipher which media outlets were credible.
“It taught me how information has evolved over the years and showed me some of the ways to keep up with those changing trends,” he said.
According to Kiniry, people tend to share information even if they know it’s not true simply because they want it to be true.
“That’s what we have to defend against,” he said. “We’re in dangerous times where somebody could just say something and if the right number of people believe it, everything will change.”
Millner said she believes being news literate is an essential skill everyone should have, not just journalists.
“People are sort of choosing their own sets of facts and operating based on faulty information,” she said. “Even a straight news report could have bias in it because opinion is leaking more and more into news, so you really have to take it apart.”