As an industry, we’ve dedicated significant time and space to the subject of fake news in our print and web pages.
We’ve highlighted examples that range from Russian trolling and attempts to influence our political processes to local stories that our newsrooms have had to address because they contained half-truths or selectively chosen facts to illustrate a point of view.
Once we tamp down a story, another appears. It frustrates editors and publishers across the country as we fight to create, publish and broadcast credible, meaningful news and information to our home audiences.
As media professionals focused on curating and connecting with our primary audiences, we have shared our perspectives on the issues with regard to untrue or misleading content as we would with any story we’d choose to publish.
We’ve focused on the adult readers who support our efforts and consume our news, and to varying degrees of success, we’ve helped these readers to better understand how to navigate through the tricky open waters of today’s vast publishing world.
But newspapers and broadcasters have an opportunity to proactively participate in the education of younger readers, specifically the teens that will be our next generation of customers and engaged readers and listeners. In doing so, we can ensure that they sharpen their critical reading skills, become independent fact-checkers and continue to view the credible members of the media industry as content authorities.
The challenge for media – in markets both large and small – is that furthering this our respective individual efforts to stamp out falsehoods further taxes the limited resources we have at a time when our focus should be on remaining commercially viable by focusing on our core and ancillary products.
The recently announced MediaWise initiative seeks to offer these resources to media companies of all sizes.
Created through generous funding by Google and facilitated by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, MediaWise will take the programming created by Stanford University’s Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) and the powerful video distribution arm of Google’s YouTube to classrooms through Local Media Association’s partners.
The National Association for Media Literacy, an educator-focused organization, has pledged to raise awareness among teachers so that they can implement this into curriculum planning. This powerful partnership of world-class organizations aims to create powerful and lasting results that resonate with more than 1 million educators and students over the next two years.
Google is investing $3 million into the MediaWise initiative for the purpose of identifying ways to teach young people how to identify credible sources for themselves.
Research from Stanford’s SHEG has identified a set of skills that, when properly applied, can quickly reveal when a site is not what it purports to be, or when a search result is dubious and other when web or social media content is best left ignored and unshared.
Google sought out Poynter to work with Stanford and the other project partners, including LMA, to take that research and make an impact.
What our collective partnership will offer ahead of the 2018-19 academic year is a series of learning modules that demonstrate examples of stories teens in Generation Z encounter as part of their regular use of the Internet. We’ll isolate content that can be confused with news or conflates the facts in reporting that reaches our kids.
In so many ways, this is an incredible opportunity for legacy media companies who continue to provide meaningful news and content for local markets to engage with a generation of readers that are more curious and more capable of accessing information than any generation before.
LMA invites you to look for updates that will detail how and when this content will begin to roll out across the United States. And, of course, we welcome help and assistance in ensuring that this vital project is successful – not only now, but for years to come.
We welcome LMA partners to reach out to us if you are interested in piloting an event in your market with your local schools. Partners whose markets include underserved students should view the MediaWise project as an excellent way to connect with potential new readers and expand their audiences.
On behalf of everyone at LMA, thank you for your interest in this worthwhile project.
Chris Krug is President of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, and a contributor to Local Media Association’s efforts on the MediaWise initiative.