FAQ's for Lesson 1 - What is News Literacy?

Information Revolution FAQs

Could the introduction of radio be considered "Information Revolution 1.5?" 

Yes, if you include TV and call it Broadcast Technology. What the two technologies added was immediacy (speed) and actuality (being there). But what makes 2.0 different is that now we all have the power to publish and broadcast, not just a limited number of wealthy and/or powerful people or groups who could afford the equipment and who could get access to airwaves.

Why do new technologies seem to have increased credibility? 

It’s not clear why many or most people assign greater credibility to new technologies, but it seems to be the case. Perhaps it is because new technologies amaze us.

Is there any limit on the creation of new ways to share information? Will Virtual Reality have a similar impact? 

Anyone who says there won’t be new ways to share information will be proven wrong and Virtual Reality (VR) is a great example of what some people think will be the next big innovation. Some news organizations are already experimenting with VR as a way to enhance storytelling by making the viewer think she is in the middle of an event. It will be very powerful, which will probably make all VR reports seem very credible, but it will also be very easy to manipulate.


Four Challenges FAQs

Why do some editors decide to move forward to print or broadcast information even if they know they don't have all of the facts while others wait?

News organizations are very competitive both for commercial reasons and also because of human nature. Often heated arguments occur when editors are trying to decide whether or not to publish. Again, much depends on how high the stakes are: if it is a really important story that will have a major impact, then the bar for how much evidence you have before publishing should be much higher.

What do news networks gain, really, by being first to report breaking news? The consequences are so dire for getting it wrong that I don’t understand the temptation. Is it just bragging rights or something else more meaningful?

Yes, it is in part about bragging rights. The news business is a competitive one. It’s also about marketing. When a news outlet trumpets its exclusive reporting, it’s attempting to draw an audience that’s looking for information that can’t be found anywhere else. Perhaps more meaningful is the fact that getting the story first indicates to the reporter that she has contacted the right sources, asked the right questions, sought out the best evidence in the right places.

Has the technology/information revolution affected the need for journalists to publish before the truth is wholly known?

Yes, it has. The pace of reporting is so much faster than it’s ever been, increasing the likelihood of incomplete reports or inaccurate reports being published. It’s no coincidence that News Literacy was created in 2007, as the effects of the information revolution on journalism were beginning to be felt.

Do consumers prefer the news outlet that first releases the news or the one that reports it the most accurately?

They prefer the fastest one first … until it turns out to be wrong.

Why don't more news outlets put the "developing story" disclaimer as the "Two Way" website did?

That has become more common in recent years. You have to remember that most journalists, particularly the ones in charge, are older and grew up in the era before online news outlets became so dominant.

Do you think that incorrect reporting in breaking news situations has any kind of value? Is it better for people to have a "ballpark" idea of the truth, trading "alerting the public" for absolute accuracy?

Yes, it has value in alerting the public. But it needs to be handled responsibly and with as much transparency as possible.


Crisis of Authenticity FAQs

Will social media ever do something to regulate “fake” accounts? Could this be possible?

Facebook is taking steps to flag fake news and other misinformation, so that’s a start. As far as preventing people from creating fake accounts — that seems like a harder task. Twitter has the check mark, and although it’s not foolproof, looking for it is a good start. All of this is difficult to do and it seems every measure platforms take to control the spread of misinformation is met by countermeasures.


How would you recommend addressing an obviously false report as a news consumer? Do we have a responsibility?

Yes, news consumers do have a responsibility. First, do not share it on social media. If you see someone else share it, share something else that corrects the false information. If the false report came from an accountable news organization, contact the reporter or the editor and alert them to the problem. Some news outlets also employ an ombudsman or public editor whose job it is to act as an advocate for the consumers and take their complaints seriously.