People of all ages need to be able to tell fact from fake, experts said Wednesday afternoon at a news literacy workshop at the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Speakers from universities and organizations from Columbia and across the country presented on possible solutions and the global nature of the news and media literacy problem.

“We need to essentially transform the way our students are educated,” said Howard Schneider, the founding dean of the Stony Brook University School of Journalism. “I do think that we are beginning to make progress.”

Schneider helped develop the nation’s first undergraduate course in news literacy. The course has reached more than 15,000 Stony Brook students and over 10,000 students globally.

It has helped students navigate the “tsunami” of information and disinformation that is descending, he said. The program has spread to 25 other universities.

“It is not a journalism course; it is a citizenship course,” Schneider said.

Alicia Haywood is part of the convergence journalism faculty at MU and a representative for Media Literacy Now, an organization that “supports efforts that prepare young people to be thoughtful, safe, and effective consumers and creators of media,” according to the organization’s website.

“This kind of education needs to become the expectation,” she said. “Media literacy is no less critical than math or science.”

John Silva, a Checkology representative, said that the flagship online learning platform can play a role in teaching students media literacy from an early age. Students who have used Checkology report significant changes in the way they think about, share and respond to news and other information, he said.

Battle High School social studies teacher Jill Villasana uses iCivics as a way to incorporate news and media literacy into her curriculum.

NewsFeed Defenders is one of the iCivics games designed to make news literacy skills more relevant to students.

The games provide students with a safe environment and give teachers more control over the students’ experience, Villasana said.

IREX Senior Technical Advisor Tara Susman-Peña has helped the organization expand their information literacy program, Learn to Discern, internationally and in the United States. The program sharpens critical thinking, strengthens emotional resilience, increases self-reflection, improves ability to identify and fight misinformation and inspires people to teach their peers, according the organization’s website.

Compared to other organizations that presented at the conference, IREX is more focused on helping adults improve their media literacy. The company currently has pilot programs in New Jersey and Arizona, with most of their efforts being abroad in countries such as Ukraine, Jordan, Indonesia, Guatemala and Iraq.

A new journalism course was introduced last year at MU to help students outside of the School of Journalism develop healthier habits of media consumption, according to instructor Amy Simons. The online course teaches students the role of social media and the importance of fact-checking.

Event organizer Kathy Keily, Lee Hills Chair in Free-Press Studies at MU, said that it is essential to recognize the importance of reaching out to the middle of the country, not just the coasts, when thinking about media literacy.

“We need,” she said, “to make everyone reporters.”

  • General Assignment Reporter, Summer 2019 Studying magazine journalism Reach me at, or in the newsroom at 882-5700

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