We Can Solve The Misinformation Crisis With News Literacy - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Shaelynn Farnsworth

Shaelynn Farnsworth is the director of educator network expansion for the News Literacy Project and a former educator and school improvement consultant. National News Literacy Week is presented by NLP and The E.W. Scripps Company.


As an island group with its own distinct heritage and a location remote from the continental United States, Hawaii holds a singular place in our nation’s identity.

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But one thing it shares with the mainland is the pressing need to stop the flood of misinformation that can trick us into thinking falsehoods are true.

Misinformation doesn’t respect state or national boundaries; indeed, it threatens the very survival of American democracy. Falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election — an election deemed “the most secure in American history” — led to a violent Jan. 6 insurrection that attempted to overturn the results.

Misinformation also threatens our health, with baseless conspiracy theories convincing many to forgo Covid-19 vaccinations despite overwhelming evidence of their safety and effectiveness. And it threatens our vibrant planet, as denial about climate change has stalled efforts to take actions needed to prevent or mitigate catastrophic harm.

Although the misinformation crisis might feel overwhelming, we can take steps to maintain our personal beliefs and respect one another’s differing perspectives while keeping facts at the center of our debates.

Now is the ideal time to begin, this week is National News Literacy Week, an annual event that underscores the vital role of news literacy in a democracy and provides free news literacy resources.

‘Fact-Based Journalism’

What is news literacy? It’s the ability to determine the credibility of news and other information, to identify its intent, and to use the standards of authoritative, fact-based journalism to make informed decisions about what to trust, share and act on. Or put more simply, it’s being able to tell fact from fiction.

Hawaii has the foresight to be on the leading edge of the news literacy movement. It is one of a few states considering including its instruction in K-12 schools. Nā Hopena A‘o, the Hawaii State Department of Education framework for developing the skills, behaviors, dispositions and values of the islands’ indigenous heritage, speaks to foundational concepts of news literacy. It’s important to teach these concepts early.

Although young people are digital natives, they have grown up in a world where it’s harder to discern news from opinion or falsehoods from facts on social media, where they spend so much time.

And the information landscape they traverse is polluted by political polarization, where party rather than policy often dictates one’s stance on an issue.
Moreover, mis- and disinformation actively disempower our keiki and kupuna from exercising their civic rights and responsibilities. In a speech in 2021, Peter Adams of the News Literacy Project — which is also my employer — explained why purveyors of mis- and disinformation are dangerous:

A screen shot from the Newsmax website Jan. 19, 2022.
A screenshot from the Newsmax website on Wednesday. Screenshot/2022

“They exploit our devotion to justice for outrage clicks. They convert our love for our families into skepticism about vaccines. They use our patriotism or our desire for self-determination to manufacture doubt and distrust in our institutions … and in one another. They exacerbate injustice, endanger marginalized people, deceive us into taking civic actions that are divisive and inauthentic — that are based on lies — and they threaten the viability of our democracy.”

On Tuesday, I will participate in the Department of Education’s Computer Learning Event, leading a session where educators can learn about NLP’s free resources, which make teaching news literacy easy to incorporate into an education curriculum.

Hawaii has the foresight to be on the leading edge of the news literacy movement.

In fact, essential news literacy principles support the key outcomes of digital citizenship as defined in Nā Hopena A‘o. These include developing a healthy skepticism, choosing a variety of sources, exploring different sides of a story, avoiding clickbait, and encouraging respect for themselves and others when online.

This free event is open to all — click here for more information or join the event on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Hawaii time or 3 p.m. Hawaii time.

But news literacy is not just for the young. As The New York Times reported, “Older adults are particularly vulnerable to misinformation.”

NLP provides many free resources to help people of all ages sharpen their skills to fight this major societal ill.

If the United States is going to survive as a country, we all need to become more news-literate to protect our health, our knowledge and our institutions, and to make better informed decisions about our lives.


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About the Author

Shaelynn Farnsworth

Shaelynn Farnsworth is the director of educator network expansion for the News Literacy Project and a former educator and school improvement consultant. National News Literacy Week is presented by NLP and The E.W. Scripps Company.


Latest Comments (0)

Really want to examine News Literacy..? Start with this: 1) It is wrong for a news journalist to have a narrative then only look to support that narrative with one side of the story. Next look at what news journalist actually do for example Lester Holt said, "Fairness is Overrated".. "The idea that we should give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. Even worse he said this when accepting the Edward R. Murrow lifetime achievement award! Murrow was newsman Holt is clearly not.2) Next you can move on to so called the fact check sites like Politicfact just the name says it all.. politicizing facts. Politics have never had much to do with facts.3) Finally learn the difference between news and opinion, opinion also does not have much to do with facts. I noticed that you have an opinion host at the picture for this story.

4whatitsworth · 3 months ago

Identities of prominent information sources are purposefully ambiguous.If you follow the money you may discern its functional nature.Mass Media is really Mass Marketing Firms with a variety of products to attract viewers to advertisements.Major news anchors and commentators(hard working,talented and impressively credentialed) are really contracted performers whose achievements are costume dressing bestowing gravitas to their performance.The News is really an elaborate expensively staged combination of Infomercial and Infotainment.Many Americans can read faster then the performer can talk so why is this expensive process a definitivesource of reality?Just asking.

omaomao · 3 months ago

Lizards taking to forms of humans, people drinking the blood of babies, Trumpism, Stop the Steal, insurrection, the majority of congressional Republicans against anything presented by the Democrats no matter how beneficial to the public, are all forms of dysfunctional thought processes.As Americans we are at a critical juncture in sustaining our Republic, so while this idea of the NLP is great, I am not that optimistic on its success—one has only to read the commentaries.Fox and other such popular networks admitted that their mission is entertainment not truth seeking in its truest sense.Democracy is it own worse enemy because, ironically, it produces the ammunition for its own demise by allowing—like a virus—the unabated spread of lies and misinformation.Another area where we’re sorely lacking is in leadership—the fear factor to offenders that there are consequences to unlawful behaviors.

ddperry · 3 months ago

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