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Journalistic responsibility goes hand-in-hand with news literacy

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 by John Bowen, MJE, Kent State University

Looking at Facebook over the weekend, I noticed two posts in particular. Both dealt with issues concerning science. Both raised questions involving news literacy and journalistic responsibility. Both received a good number of comments, from all viewpoints.

One, a meme, focused on listening to those with whom you disagree. That one was a simple statement, and the comments might foster additional story angles. Besides, it is good journalistic practice.

I had not heard of the other post’s focus before: that the Earth’s climate change is a natural result of changes in our solar orbit.

Click here to go to more posts on learning about fake news.

Naturally, I had to check it out.

Information worth noting in this article:
• Sources involving NASA findings.
• A seemingly authoritative website without a link to it.
• The Milankovitch Climate Theory for support.
• Other articles supporting the information in this article, and has links. Those links go to other stories by the same author in posts on this site.
• Several NASA images the article suggests support the theory’s points.
• Other sources and makes other points not listed here.

My curiosity still unquenched, I noted some unanswered questions (these are just a few):
• The author has no listed credentials for the topic.
• Follow the link for the author and you find he has written about “adversity” points on the SAT, LGBT agenda and Crossfit taking a stand again Facebook censorship.
• The article has no officially identified NASA source.
• Although the site has a lengthy About Us and a photo of a white male, it does not specifically identify him or his role.

At this point you have the makings of a good lesson about news literacy. 

Leaving possible points of contention, outcomes and details to instructors and classes, I want to focus on some points to be checked, information use v. misuse and resources.

Issues and questions abound about:
• Source credibility
• Source objectivity
• Ethical issues on a numerous of information points..
• Points that need more context.
• How to handle ”fake news” and disinformation.
• Responsible journalism in questioning this and other stories and sources.

Answers, or their lack, to these questions could demonstrate the credibility of the story and the site. And that is what all journalists must do to maintain trust of their audiences and validity of the information they present as news.

Guidelines helpful for fact-checking lessons to assist students who face questionable information and sources include: 

• Importance of news literacy

• Introduction to news literacy

• The power of information

• 10 tips on how to spot fake news

• How to spot real and fake news

Additional resources of value (just a few of many):

• https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/nasa-climate-change-admission/

• https://whyy.org/articles/five-climate-change-science-misconceptions-debunked/

• https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2019/09/18/five-climate-change-science-misconceptions-debunked/

One Comment

  1. Spot on , John! We need to always question sources!

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