Media Literacy and Information


Information anxiety… in all its different manifestations… is enormously important. We are often overwhelmed by too much information, but there are other problems as well.

What if we cannot access the information that we need (as in censorship), or the information is incorrect but convincing, either misinformation or disinformation.

Misinformation is accidental, while disinformation is purposely spread.

Wikipedia tells us:

Disinformation  is intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately. For this reason, it is synonymous with and sometimes called black propaganda. It is an act of deception and false statements to convince someone of untruth. Disinformation should not be confused with misinformation, information that is unintentionally false.

Misinformation is false or inaccurate information that is spread unintentionally. It is distinguished from disinformation by motive in that misinformation is simply erroneous, while disinformation, in contrast, is intended to mislead.

Researching on-line about information anxiety and media literacy for posts last week I came across a very useful blog from The World Bank. This is an international organization of 188 nations that share a common mission to help reduce poverty.   Canada, the USA, France and Britain all joined in 1945. The blog is about    why we need to become more vigilant about information from the media… and how to achieve this.

 Dan Gillmor, who formulated these principles, published  them in a shorter version on his own blog. Here they are:

For Media “Consumers”

Even those of us who are creating a variety of media are still–and always will be–more consumers than creators. For all of us in this category, the principles come mostly from common sense. They include skepticism, judgment, reporting, expanding one’s own vision and understanding how it all works. More specifically:

1. Be skeptical of absolutely everything.

2. Don’t be equally skeptical of everything.

3. Go outside your personal comfort zone.

4. Ask more questions.

5. Understand and learn media techniques.

For Media Creators

All of the principles for consumers are part of the toolkit of every responsible journalist or information provider. So are the following. The first four — thoroughness, accuracy, fairness and independence — are standard for journalists of all kinds, and are widely accepted inside of traditional news organizations. The fifth — transparency — is somewhat new and considerably more controversial, and even more critical in a distributed media age.

1. Do your homework, and then do some more.

2. Get it right, every time.

3. Be fair to everyone.

4. Think independently, especially of your own biases.

5. Practice and demand transparency.

In Ontario schools, media literacy is part of the English curriculum… an essential part of reading competence in our information saturated environment. But many of us graduated before this initiative, and it is no less important to us older adults. We should know at least as much as our children! Here is the document… the guidelines for media literacy are on pages 13 and 14.

Party advertising for the US elections is becoming nastier and nastier. The smear campaigns have started. The press, television media, the internet, and social media generally… all appear to engage in a feeding frenzy of claims and counterclaims, exaggerations, malicious rumours, disinformation and misinformation.

I will not have a vote, so I can observe this phenomenon with objective, albeit worried, fascination… with information anxiety.

Knowing how to deal with information of all kinds has never been more challenging, or more important!

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One Response to Media Literacy and Information

  1. motleydragon says:

    What were the decent points that you found particularly interesting? The definitions, or my comments?

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