Nowadays, we are increasingly frustrated by this notion that news literacy is about identifying online mis/disinformation. Ever since “fake news” became a buzzword all over the world, many people equate news literacy to hoax debunking — but that is only a small part of what news literacy is about.
Of course, understanding what is false and learning how to spot it are a great first step to become “more news literate,” but unless taught very cautiously, such educational instructions could only raise awareness for easily detectable fake or manipulation, which some experts think will backfire in the long run because it encourages cynicism.
Unfortunately, our information space is much messier than true-or-false exam questions or hero-vs-villain action movies. “Facts” in news reports are wrapped with opinions, speculations, inferences, stereotypes, sentiments, promotion (propaganda), etc. — things that cannot be checked or vetted.
Critically consuming the media does not mean you must doubt everything. Such a mindset naturally makes people prone to apathy and disengagement. Hey, if everyone has an agenda and frames the message in a self-serving manner, no information or news is trustworthy, right?
It could also encourage people to cherry-pick facts and believe conspiracy theories because, well, nobody tells (or knows) the truth, so, the “real” truth must be hidden in the dark, yeah?
News literacy should be about how to identify and understand quality information in news reports. Spotting false is one thing, but deciding what’s trustworthy and why is the real challenge.
We have been trying to design a curriculum that teaches practical methods to apply critical thinking skills to identify quality information in the news no matter where it comes from — be it from unknown bloggers, established news media, or friends on social media.
Critical thinking also needs to be reflectively applied to examine ourselves to comprehend how we form our thoughts and behaviors from news reports. News literacy is about recognizing our own cognitive limitations, biases, and logical flaws. Developing an ability to identify reliable, actionable information — not just in democracy but also under authoritarian systems — helps us navigate through the abundance of misinformation and disinformation in the long run.
Strapline is our renewed effort to promote a healthy dose of skepticism coupled with self-reflective, critical thinking mindset — with practical digital proficiency.
Fact-checking techniques and sufficient knowledge of computer algorithms, social media bots, online trolls, censorship mechanism, digital economy, and other related fields are all part of our target topics.
Our goal is not just discussing how to avoid getting misled or tricked by bogus claims and manipulated content, but also exploring the methods to discern actionable information in news reports.
Our YouTube channel is already up and running, but our official announcement of the project will be in October. By then, we should have more video clips and lesson plans on this website. Our focus is primarily on news literacy in Asia but we believe our content could resonate in many other countries that are having similar issues. So, stay tuned!