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Approaching a definition of 'news literacy'

What is news literacy? A subset of media literacy? A separate construct? Participants in 'Rebooting the News' heard on Fri., Oct. 24, one definition offered by Howard Schneider, dean of the Stony Brook School of Journalism:

  • News Literacy is the ability to use critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports, whether they come via print, television or the Internet.

More from Schneider's presentation (VIDEO STREAM):

Schneider's Key Skills

    1. Recognize the difference between journalism and other kinds of information and between journalists and other information purveyors.
    2. In the context of journalism, recognize the difference between news and opinion.
    3. In the context of news stories, analyze the difference between assertion and verification and between evidence and inference.
    4. Evaluate and “deconstruct” news reports based on the quality of evidence presented and the reliability of sources; understand and apply these principles across all news media platforms.
    5. Distinguish between news media bias and audience bias.

Schneider's Key concepts

    1. Appreciate the power of reliable information and the importance of a free flow of information in a democratic society.
    2. Understand the nature and mission of the American press and its relationship with the government; compare and contrast to other systems around the world.
    3. Understand how journalists work and make decisions and why they make mistakes.
    4. In the internet age, understand that rank is not equated with reliability
    5. In the digital age, we are all more than news consumers. We are all publishers. We have the responsibility to spread reliable information.
    6. Understand why news matters and why becoming a more discerning news consumer can change their own lives and the life of the country.

    From Renee Hobbs

    Howard's definition focuses on news literacy as the process assessing the credibility of news by understanding how journalism is constructed and how audiences select and interpret messages based on their existing biases and world views.  

    In our closing session, we discussed the need to add:

    • An understanding of the economic structure and context of news industries and economic models
    • More emphasis on "creating news" not just on consuming it
    • More nuanced emphasis on the process individuals use to construct meaning through interpretation, recognizing unique perspectives of audience members
    • More emphasis on cultural participation and the use of technological tools that enhance participation

    We discussed the relationship between news and media literacy.  We shared ideas about the sense of literacy as the umbrella term, media literacy as a more specific term, and news literacy as an even more specific term.  We considered it as the application of media literacy (or literacy) to the genre of news and current events.

    Renee comments:

    • Does there need to be more emphasis on the changing conceptualization of "what is news"  --  news literacy must be relevant to both MSM and new journalistic models-what criteria help us analyze, evaluate and assess the new kinds of journalism (and community, national and global knowledge sharing more broadly) that are emerging online?
    • Does there to more attention to the role of advertising and public relations as part of the news business and the journalistic process?
    • What's missing is the "what for" stuff -- how interest in news and current events builds capacity for engaged citizenship, how critical analysis skills build a process of active questioning (inquiry) within the reading/viewing experience, how active engagement in news/current events supports participation in the social skills (listening, discussion, respectful dialogue) needed for culture and society.
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