Educating the Public Through News Media: Case Studies of News Literacy in the New Media Landscape
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Two decades of unprecedented changes in the media landscape have increased the complexity of informing the public through news media. With significant changes to the way the news industry does business and the way news consumers access this information, a new set of skills is being proposed as essential for today’s news consumer. News literacy is the use of critical thinking skills to assess the reliability and source of the information that people consume on a daily basis, as well as fostering self-awareness of personal news consumption habits and how it can create audience bias. The purpose of this study was to examine how adults experience the news in their everyday lives and to describe the nature of the news literacy skills people employ in their daily news consumption. This study purposefully selected four adults who have completed high school, and who regularly consume news information across a number of platforms, both traditional and digital. Two of the participants, one man and one woman, were over 50 years old. One other male participant was in his 30’s and the final participant, a young woman, was in her 20’s. They all utilized both traditional and digital media on a regular basis and all had differing skill levels when using social media for information. Their news experiences were documented by in-depth interviews and the completion of seven daily news logs. In their daily logs the participants differentiated news information from other information available on-line but the interviews revealed a contradiction between their intentions and their news consumption practices. All four participants had trouble distinguishing between news and opinion pieces in the news information realm. In addition all but one seemed unaware of their personal bias and any possible effect it was having on their news consumption. Further research should explore the benefits of an adult-centered news literacy curriculum on news consumers similar to the participants, and should examine the development of audience bias and its relationship to the daily exposure people have to the torrent of information that is available to them on a daily basis.