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News Literacy Week 2022: Why news literacy is an essential skill for everyone

Posted at 6:01 AM, Jan 24, 2022

(WXYZ) — Research suggests that we as humans gravitate toward information that reinforces our worldview, but it's important to recognize that sometimes that can make us susceptible to misinformation.

Our parent company E.W. Scripps, has once again teamed up with the News Literacy Project. The purpose of the company-wide initiative is to shine a light on better information consumption and sharing.

All week long, we are taking a look at different elements of how Americans consume news, and how we, as the media, can do better.

Last year, the average American spent about 11 hours a day consuming media on their computers, televisions or mobile devices. That's a 20% increase from just a decade earlier.

"We think news literacy is an essential skill in today's fraught information environment," Alan Miller, the founder & CEO of the News Literacy Project, said.

Miller started the non-profit in 2008 to address concerns about the tsunami of sources of information that vary in credibility and accountability.

"News literacy is the ability to evaluate all news and information, and to discern credible information to be able to sort fact from fiction," he said.

A fact is defined as "something known to be true," while opinion is "a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty."

The main difference is that facts can be proven; opinions cannot.

A 2018 Pew Research study found that when presented with five factual statements and five statements of opinion, only 26% of adults were able to correctly recognize all statements of fact. Just 35% were able to identify the statements that were opinions.

"We've got the perfect storm now that has created a situation where misinformation is an existential threat to the health of our democracy," Miller said.

He added that one in five newspapers have gone out of business in the last 15 years, while at the same time, there's been an explosion of other sources of information.

"Particularly online and through social media platforms that do not seek to inform in a fact-based, contextual, accountable way, but rather seek to persuade or exploit or misinform," Miller said.

He said therein lies the importance of news literacy.