Trust in the news media remains low.
It’s to the point that Americans under 30 “are now almost as likely to trust information from social media sites as they are to trust information from national news outlets,” according to research by the Pew Research Center. However, social media is linked to mistrust of the news media.
Undoubtedly, this mistrust can be attributed to the spread of mis- and disinformation that results in news consumption habit changes such as news avoidance or relying on echo chambers, increased polarization, and a less informed citizenry, all of which tear at the fabric of communities and society.
Although a universal remedy for such societal ills doesn’t exist, there are steps educators can take to begin turning the tide against mistrust, misinformation, and divisive conspiracy theories, such as emphasizing media literacy in their classrooms.
However, keeping up with the constantly evolving media landscape calls for additional approaches to teaching students to be literate news and information consumers, especially at a time when social media is so prevalent.
One tactic would be to incorporate Verity into daily instruction.
“a free news site created by the Improve the News Foundation (ITN), an apolitical American non-profit. It aims to counter misuses of artificial intelligence that have resulted in a distorted online news environment, where alternative facts often overshadow scientific truths, and fractured narratives contribute to social discord. Verity aims to empower people to discover the complete and nuanced truth behind every major news story. It does this by separating facts from narratives. This even includes ‘nerd narratives’ from the Metaculus forecasting community. Verity is also a powerful news aggregator facilitating viewing news from multiple perspectives.”
It uses machine-learning (ML) and crowdsourcing to cull news articles from a variety of sources across the internet and classify them by topics. The articles that are focused on the same news item are grouped.
Then, when an individual visits the site, they can use the sliders to compare and construct the various perspectives found in the articles.
In short, you can move the slider back and forth and read the news from extreme conservative or liberal perspectives or anywhere in between.
MIT Prof. Max Tegmark developed this innovative approach to seeing how biases impact news coverage and reporting, and it is eye-opening.
There is so much information from a variety of viewpoints available on Verity’s site, and accessing it all only takes a nudge of the slider. This is also true of the apps, which are free for iOS and Android.
Though I thoroughly enjoy reading news via the website and use the phone app frequently, I love the podcast. The hosts break down the biggest stories of the day — determined through ML — by first explaining the most salient points that are agreed upon by multiple sources, which they specifically state. Then they share the biased perspectives or spins, again citing the sources.
I listen to several news podcasts each day, but the Verity podcast provides a unique overview of the news while sharing insights into the numerous biases at play in the media world.
I haven’t found many tools that help me feel more informed, especially in such a responsible and literate way.
After all, according to the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), media literacy is defined as “[t]he ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication.”
Verity meets the first three criteria of that definition, and when armed with those skills, creating communication and taking action based on consumed communication will become much easier.
By having students consume news via Verity’s website or app and its podcast, they can increase their media literacy skills, which positively impacts democracy and rebuilds the trust needed for society to properly function thanks to social capital.
Incorporating this free service into your classroom’s curricular toolkit will pay dividends and prepare students to navigate the fragmented and polarized media ecosystem. They will come away being better citizens who consume news and are civically engaged.