Being news literate is a very important part of being a member of your local, national, and global society. News literacy though, is much more than simply reading or watching lots of news. So, what is ‘news literacy’?
Different researchers over the last few decades have large agreed on how to define media literacy. The most common broad definition of media literacy is that you should be able to “access, analyse, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms”.
Media literacy takes into account a large range of different media, including TV shows, magazines, art, photographs, social media, radio & podcasts, and other factual and fictional media products we might come across. News and journalism also falls into the media literacy bucket. Think back to high school. Remember having to read a book or watch a movie, and then pick it apart to find the meaning and recognise patterns and possibly even create something that extended the story? That’s preparing you to be media literate.
It’s how you know an ad on television is trying to sell you something, or recognise how a book like 1984 reflects our modern society.
News literacy is an extension of media literacy. It deals with your ability to “access, analyse, evaluate and create” journalistic information that is in the public interest. Essentially, news literacy deals with information you would get from the news media to make decisions in your daily life. This differs from the wide range of things covered by media literacy because, for example, while a cartoon is fun to watch and you an definitely draw meaning out of it, it is not specifically designed to inform you about the world or guide you decision-making. For example, news about a change to how much tax you have to pay will influence the way you vote, the way you budget your finances, where children go to school or where you live, and possibly even your job.
News literacy assesses several key abilities you should have in order to fully engage and play your part in shaping society. These include:
⚫ An understanding of the news industry.
This includes an awareness of different media outlets, the ability to identify reliable, trustworthy sources of news (including fact-checking information you might see online), the self-awareness to recognise the effect news media can have on you, and knowing how and why news stories are constructed the way they are.
⚫ How motivated you are to consume news.
This is the reasons why you read or watch the news – your motivations. People who are highly news literate consume news because they see it as an opportunity to learn about the world, as well as allowing them to make informed decisions and opinions about matters of public interest.
⚫ Your ability to process information.
This includes recognising cues such as music or images which are used in journalism to guide how you feel watching the story, or recognising and understanding the different reporting styles or formats used by different news outlets, (for example, breakfast television is more casual than nightly news). It is also recognising these are not bad things – we rely on these cues from news outlets to allow us to more easily process information. It helps to move you more easily between stories to process a lot of information at once – one nightly news bulletin might have more than 30 stories in an hour.
⚫ Your ability to analyse and create news.
This is directly related to the last point. Becoming news literate doesn’t simply mean consuming more news. It means you are able to quickly filter quality news information from poor reporting or even misinformation. Once you are able to do this, it means you are more likely to create factual or news products yourself. This can be as basic as knowing whether something is trustworthy enough to share on your social media and participating in meaningful, informed discussion, or could even mean creating something like a podcast, using your understanding of different journalistic techniques and awareness of defining the audience you are trying to target.