Forum: ‘News literacy’ a must in today’s world

Chris Day
Sarah Whittle, an instructor of library services at Northeastern State University in Tahlquah, discusses ways to vet news sources during the News or Nonsense forum Monday night at the Bartlesville Public Library. The event was organized by The League of Women Voters of Bartlesville. Other panelists were Kelly Burley, KOSU executive director, and Bartlesville resident Kevin Bennett. Chris Day/Journal-Capital

News, today, needs to be pass the CRAAP test, News or Nonsense forum panelist Sarah Burkhead Whittle said Monday night.

Whittle, an instructor of library services at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, KOSU Public Media Executive Director Kelly Burley and Bartlesville resident, former reporter/editor and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute lecturer Kevin Bennett told those gathered at the Bartlesville Public Library the news consumer must question everything in today’s information age.

The 90-plus minute forum was organized by The League of Women Voters of Bartlesville, and this story is just a sampling of the wide variety of issues covered at the meeting. You can watch the entire forum on the Examiner-Enterprise’s Facebook page.

Burley and Bennett said the public is gravitating toward news programming that fits their political leanings. Conservatives turn on Fox News, while liberals watch MSNBC, Bennett said.

“We are self-selecting into groups that think like us,” Bennett said. “It’s just easier to hang out with somebody that thinks and believes the same thing that you do, and it skews our view of the world.”

This form of tribalism keeps Americans from truly discussing the issues, understanding other points of view and setting aside their differences to discover common ground and solutions to society’s problems.

Burley said news literacy courses must be incorporated into school curriculum, starting in kindergarten. Technology will make it increasingly difficult from discerning electronically altered images, video and audio from actually images, video and audio.

The technology is available to make an audio or video file of former President Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump to say anything an unscrupulous group wants them to say.

Burley also argued for the return of the Fairness Doctrine for television and radio. The Fairness Doctrine was introduced in 1949 and abolished in 1987. It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to controversial matters of public interest and to air contrasting views on those matters. It didn’t require equal time for those opposing views, but did require opposing views to be included.

Burley said the demise of the Fairness Doctrine raised the level of party polarization in the United States.

“Proponents of the Fairness Doctrine say it should be reinstated to restore diversity of opinion and with that well-argued debates,” Burley said.

Whittle urged news consumers to consider the source of the information. Many learn about breaking news through social media, which is often fast, but inaccurate or incomplete. Newspapers have more time to report, often have multiple sources and have time to report several sides to each story. Weekly magazines can add more context to news stories. Monthly magazines, monthly or quarterly journals add academic resources, books can reflect a historical perspective, she said.

She also outlined the CRAAP test to determine if its news or nonsense.

C — Currency. When was the information published or posted? Has the information been revised or updated? Does your topic require current information or will older sources work as well. Are the links functional.

R — Relevance. Does the information related to your topic or answer your question? Who is the intended audience. Have you looked at a variety of sources?

A — Authority. Who is the author/publisher/source or sponsor? What are their credentials? Is the author qualified to write on this topic?

A — Accuracy. Where does the information come from? Is the information supported by evidence? Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?

P — Purpose. What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade? Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear? Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda? Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?

The CRAAP test was developed by librarians at California State University-Chico. It is a handy checklist to use when evaluating a web source or any other source, Whitley said.

“News literacy is the ability to develop critical-thinking skills in order to judge the reliability and credibility of the information whether it comes via print, television or the internet,” Whittle said.