We first heard about “fake news” during the 2016 Presidential election. Now, the term is being used widely by journalists and politicians alike. This fall, the West Virginia University Reed College of Media is offering a new course in media literacy that tackles the phenomenon of fake news head on.
The new curriculum is designed to help students become savvier media consumers by teaching them how to access and critically analyze and evaluate news and information across media platforms.
College of Media Teaching Assistant Professor Bob Britten developed the course in response to the changing media landscape, in which news consumers are bombarded with media messages through traditional media sources and their social channels. Students in the class will learn how to distinguish real news from fabricated information, how to identify reporters’ biases, and how to recognize the various ways race, class, gender and sexual orientation are represented in the media. Students will also learn to develop their own individual framework to gauge credibility.
Britten says the course is not designed to teach students which channels are necessarily right or wrong. Rather, it is meant to provide them with the tools to systematically analyze and investigate the content of news stories to determine if the information is accurate and can be supported through multiple sources.
“I want students to have a more engaging experience with the information they’re consuming,” said Britten. “Even if they don’t change the channels they’re using, if they are more engaged, then they’ve benefitted.”
Graduate student Emily Martin hopes the course will help her grow both personally and professionally.
“As a future journalist, I hope this course helps me keep my own biases out of my reporting,” said Martin. “But as a consumer, I hope it helps me better recognize bias in other journalists’ reporting.”
College of Media Dean Maryanne Reed believes the growing concern about fake news makes this course particularly timely.
“As a college of media, we have an obligation not just to prepare students to be news producers, but also to give them the tools they need to be better media consumers,” said Reed. “We are living in a time when the public is growing distrustful about the accuracy and trustworthiness of news and information, and yet they need that information to make educated decisions about their lives.
The new Media Literacy course is currently being offered as an honors seminar to students both in and outside of the college. Reed said the College hopes to open the course to all students at WVU.
Christa Currey, Reed College of Media
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