This Month's Issue
This month’s issue is dedicated to the advice and wisdom our Journalism scholars seek to share with younger scholars, specifically about navigating the world of information online. We have been studying about misinformation, disinformation, fake news, bias, and reliability, and these friendly letters are demonstrations of that learning. Enjoy! 😊
Here are the links to the most recent publication of the Media Bias Chart and the "Legit-O-Meter," both of which are referenced in our scholars' work:
By Olivia Marcano
A key aspect of media literacy is understanding media bias. Media bias is the impulse to spread and consume information that conforms to your way of thinking, political party, religious affiliation, or ethnic group. You have probably seen an event on social media or TV which the depiction, or the way they choose to show the event/people has been influenced in some way by the viewers or those broadcasting it. This causes you to develop a biased opinion on problems or events and makes you more vulnerable to consuming misinformation.
It is also a promoting factor for misinformation to go viral. As people consume news and weather through social media or television, it’s proven that popularity is a deciding factor of people’s bias. According to the article “How Misinformation Spreads -- And what to do about it”, author Chris Meserole discloses, “As with Facebook and Youtube, Twitter now relies on a deep learning algorithm that has learned to prioritize content with greater prior engagement.” So, if you wonder why false news goes viral, you may want to take a close read of his full article.
But to prevent succumbing to news influenced by bias, you may find it useful to read, “How to Detect Bias In News Media” from Fair.org, which makes useful points like paying attention to the source. According to the text, “Be aware of the political perspective of the source used in a story.” Media relies heavily on “official” government-based sources which FAIR.org has found to have a limited spectrum of experts or sources which is counterproductive in their mission of delivering accurate and inclusive information. Additionally, FAIR.org states, “Demand mass media expand their rolodexes; better yet, give them lists of progressive and public interest experts in the community.” FAIR recommends taking the initiative to call out and replace biased ideals by imposing personal points of view and act as a voice for your community and ideals.
Ever wonder if your favorite sources are inclusive or credible beyond your scope? Refer to the Legit-O-Meter. This meter will give you a sense of understanding when looking for credible websites to learn from and quote. With these tips and tricks to go by while researching, this meter will help you spot a sketchy website on site. Good luck navigating the media!
Dear Young Scholar
By Jose Marquez-Diaz
The internet is filled with so much information and other things but unfortunately the internet also has tons of fake news. Bias and misinformation are being spread daily at all times and it can be easy to notice sometimes but some people don't know how to fact check this misinformation. If you want to learn more about fact checking bias and misinformation you can read this article “Why you stink at fact-checking” to help you learn how you can fact check the misinformation that is being spread on the internet. The article written by Lisa Fazio goes a bit into depth about why we fail to notice what we know what's wrong using the Moses illusion which has been repeatedly studied since the 1980s. “It occurs with a variety of questions and the key finding is that – even though people know the correct information – they don’t notice the error and proceed to answer the question. In the original study, 80 percent of the participants failed to notice the error in the question. This failure occurred even though participants were warned that some of the questions would have something wrong with them.” This is an example in the article that goes into detail about our failing to notice what we know is wrong, the article also talks about why we miss mistakes the article states, “people have a general bias to believe that things are true. After all, most things that we read or hear are true.” This part of the article talks about how since most things we read or hear are true we immediately think that the misinformation is true it then states, “In fact, there’s some evidence that we initially process all statements as true and that it then takes cognitive effort to mentally mark them as false,” going further into depth about how our brain just processes everything we hear as true and not misinformation.
With all this I can now tell you how you can improve at fact checking misinformation. Luckily with misinformation and media bias becoming more and more common there are more and more people becoming aware of it and many ways to fact check it. One amazing way to help detect media bias is something called a media bias chart which is a giant chart that has multiple news sources on it. If the news source is more liberal based it is put on the lower left part of the graph, if the news source is more conservative based it is put in the bottom right of the chart and finally if you want find a news source that has little to no media bias and misinformation you would find it at the top middle section of the chart. One example of this is “Palmer Report” and “US Uncut” being on the bottom left of the chart meaning that they are more liberal based and biased, Another example of this is “InfoWars” and “The Blaze” being on the bottom right corner of the chart meaning that they are more conservative based and biased, One last example is “Bloomberg,” “The Hill,” “BBC,” and “ABC News” which are in the middle top if the chart showing that they are some of the most unbiased new sources, and if you need a visual example to help you better understand the concept and idea of how a media bias chart works you can use the image below as a reference.
If you feel like the media bias chart is not thorough enough or doesn't give a clear idea on how to detect media bias and the spread of misinformation then you can read this article “How to Detect Bias in News Media,” which goes into a thorough step-by-step process on how you can detect media bias. The steps listed in this article are not only thorough but are also extensive. For example, step one is “Who are the sources?” It talks about how you should be aware of the political perspective at all times. It also states “To portray issues fairly and accurately, media must broaden their spectrum of sources. Otherwise, they serve merely as megaphones for those in power.” Step three: “From whose point of view is the news reported” where it states “Political coverage often focuses on how issues affect politicians or corporate executives rather than those directly affected by the issue.” This shows how even though an issue impacts a certain group of people it will be reported on from the perspective of someone who it won't really affect like politicians or high-ranking members of a business.
With all that the final thing I will tell you, Younger Scholar, is that the internet is an amazing place where you can find entertainment, look for the answers to all your questions and a dozen of other things but be careful because people are constantly spreading media bias and misinformation and you don’t want to be fooled or manipulated by them!
EL dilema social
By Luz Castro
Este tema nos deja mucho que aprender sobre las redes sociales y sus consecuencias al mal manejo de ella, unos de los primeros puntos que nos deja más que claro este tema es que las redes sociales podrían
Girar alrededor del impacto negativo que ejerce la redes sociales sobre nuestras vidas, conductas y pensamientos; al punto de no ser conscientes de la adicción que provoca.
El Dr. Ilan Shapiro es un pediatra, empresario e influyente en las redes sociales radicado en Los Ángeles. Él nos habló sobre su preocupación por el efecto de las redes sociales en los niños y jóvenes.
El Dr. Ilan afirma, “En los últimos años, he visto una tendencia en los problemas graves de salud mental que afectan a nuestros hijos que se derivan de su uso de las redes sociales. En aplicaciones como Instagram, nuestros niños están inundados constantemente con imágenes de personas con cuerpos “perfectos” poco realistas y panaceas dietéticas que pretenden solucionar todos los problemas de imagen corporal. A su vez, los filtros en TikTok y Snapchat crean la sonrisa perfecta, la cintura más delgada o la piel más hermosa.”
Se ha demostrado que estas plataformas de redes sociales tienen un efecto grave en la autoestima de nuestros hijos, lo que provoca tasas más altas de problemas de salud mental y trastornos alimentarios, todo esto sumado a los efectos negativos que los jóvenes enfrentaron durante la pandemia por perderse el aprendizaje y las interacciones en persona con sus amigos.
El Dr. Ilan afirma, “Como médico, hay un límite de lo que puedo hacer. Cuando un paciente llega a mi consultorio, o peor aún, a la sala de emergencias, el daño ocurrido por las redes sociales ya se ha producido. Los padres acuden a mí sabiendo que su hijo sufre de un peligroso trastorno alimentario o que le han hecho bullying en línea hasta el punto de la depresión. Estoy allí para ayudar a curar, consolar y recoger las piezas, pero los padres suelen sentir que les han fallado a sus hijos.
Mi consejo para los mas jovenes que estan ingresando poco a poco a este mundo de la redes es que lo esencial es no dejarse llevar por todo ese mundo si no que sean sabios y busque el lado positivo de esto por que asi como tiene su lado malo también tiene su lado bueno, quizás no sea tan fácil como decirlo pero creanme que no es imposible.
THE social dilemma
This topic leaves us a lot to learn about social networks and its consequences for mishandling it. One of the first points that this topic makes us more than clear is that social networks could revolve around the negative impact that social networks have on our lives, behaviors and thoughts; to the point of not being aware of the addiction it causes.
Dr. Ilan Shapiro is a Los Angeles-based pediatrician, entrepreneur, and social media influencer. He told us about his concern about the effect of social networks on children and young people. Dr. Ilan states, “In recent years, I have seen a trend in serious mental health problems affecting our children that stem from their use of social media. On apps like Instagram, our kids are constantly inundated with images of people with unrealistic “perfect” bodies and dietary panaceas that claim to fix all body image issues. In turn, the filters on TikTok and Snapchat create the perfect smile, the slimmest waist, or the most beautiful skin.”
These social media platforms have been shown to have a serious effect on our children's self-esteem, leading to higher rates of mental health problems and eating disorders, all this added to the negative effects that young people faced during the pandemic by missing out on learning and in-person interactions with their friends.
Dr. Ilan states, “As a doctor, there is a limit to what I can do. By the time a patient arrives at my office, or worse, the ER, the damage done by social media has already been done. Parents come to me knowing their child is suffering from a dangerous eating disorder or has been bullied online to the point of depression. I am there to help heal, comfort, and pick up the pieces, but parents often feel like they have failed their children.”
My advice to the youngest who are entering this world of networks little by little is that the essential thing is not to get carried away by all that world, but to be wise and look for the positive side of this because just as it has its bad side it also has its good side, it may not be as easy as saying it but believe me it is not impossible.
Why is the Internet Harmful?
By Elijah Delgado
Growing up, the internet has always been a scary place. I have only sometimes had the best experiences using it and other times it was scary. I was constantly manipulated by the constant use of advertisements, which were designed to entice me into buying products I did not need. There were also predators and weird people that I had to avoid, as well as people who were constantly trying to scam me out of my money. As I interacted with numerous people who held discriminatory views, I was also exposed to the world of prejudice and bias. As a young adult, I have become more aware of the dangers that lurk on the internet and the consequences that come with inappropriate use.
I've experienced what it's like to feel powerful when using the internet, such as when you can comment whatever you want under someone else's post, but I also understood that I was just a small clownfish in a big ocean. It can be a humbling experience to recognize that, despite all the power I had to access information and connect with people, I was still a tiny speck in the grand scheme of things. In the film The Social Dilemma, this idea is explored further, where the documentary examines how the immense power of technology and social media can be so overwhelming and lead to a feeling of helplessness when faced with its huge capabilities. The Social Dilemma looks at how big social media companies take advantage of their users by putting algorithms on their platforms that make people addicted to the sites. It also shows, quite rightly, how platforms gather personal information about users to target them with ads, which is something that has mostly gone unchecked up until now. I highly suggest viewing this documentary because it offers great insight into the effects of technology and social media on people.
The best way to guard against media bias is to be aware of where your news is coming from and whether it is trustworthy. By reading a variety of different news sources and being aware of the potential bias in each, you can gain a more comprehensive picture of the world and make more informed decisions. I recommend using the Graphic/Interactive Graphic: Media Bias Chart and Graphic: Legit-O-Meter. The main goal of the Media Bias Chart and Legit-O-Meter is to give you a visual way to compare the political bias and levels of credibility of dozens of the most important news outlets. This can help you figure out how accurate and trustworthy a news source is. Using these tools can be a little difficult but that’s why I’m here. When using the Media Bias Chart, you will see thousands of news sources in the shape of a triangle. The new sources on the very top in the green square are the most reliable. The news sources skewed to the left are very liberal based and the ones skewed to the right are conservative-based. If they are in the orange rectangle they are somewhat reliable but also kind of biased. The ones in the red rectangle are NOT!!! To be trusted. But I do encourage you to take a look at some of the ones that are not really reliable or do not lean toward your political views because it can help you gain an understanding of other people’s views and standpoints and what to look out for. With these tools, you can compare news sources and make an informed decision about which to rely on for your news.
It's important to avoid disclosing important information. Before publishing something online, give it some careful consideration because you won't be able to take it back. Do not respond to emails, text messages, or phone calls from strangers. I encourage you to watch the Ted Talk, "What Makes Something Go Viral?" in your spare time. Watching the Ted Talk, What Makes Something Go Viral? is a great way to gain insight into how quickly information can spread online and how careful we must be when consuming content. Dao Nguyen describes how BuzzFeed staffers live-streamed their boss's reaction to goats in his office in her Ted Talk. Their boss took over thirty minutes to see the goats due to delays. They found almost ninety thousand people viewing the stream. They wondered why this video went viral and what viewers were thinking and feeling. They understood it was because people might share a future event. This hypothesis eventually led them to test it out. Lastly, just be cautious when browsing the internet. Don't get addicted to spending too much time online; ensure you are taking breaks to engage in other activities.
Letter to a young internet user
By Kani McNeil
Hello there! As you are growing up I understand that you are not going to be using the internet for subway surfers and YouTube videos anymore. And that’s O.K, you’re growing up, welcome to your first steps to adulthood. As you may know, this world is scary and dark, and the internet is no exception. There are several ways that the internet can bring you down and keep you there, causing you to do things that are out of your personality.
Did you know that while you are consuming social media platforms, you yourself are being consumed? Your attention is the object of so many different companies. This is why there are things like advertisements and “the algorithm.” In order for you to spend more of your time scrolling through apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter, the creators of these apps have created systems. The most prevalent of these systems is the algorithm. This system takes all the things you’ve ever liked, reposted, or saved and then creates a feed of that information continuously, it can even tell when you have been away from your phone for too long and will send you notifications based on your screen time. While this may seem like a good thing because it feeds you the things you like, I’d like to ask, what happens when you take interest in something that is destructive or problematic? The algorithm will continuously provide you with information based on this destructive fondness and will cause your mind to slowly but surely become affected to the point of no return. In order to avoid this, please stay mindful of how long and when you engage in social media antics.
Also, like in real life, there exists bias on social media. People who are opinionated on the internet tend to make their preferences evident to the whole world, even when the cost spreads false information that can cost people their lives or their social status. While there are several types of biases online the ones that are most dangerous in my opinion are bias by omission and bias by spin. Bias by omission is where one leaves one side out of an article, or a series of articles over a period of time, while bias by spin is when a reporter makes one side’s ideological perspective look better than another. Bias by omission is dangerous because the information that is left out has the potential to change the entire perspective of the reader; the “victim” can turn out to be not innocent or, even worse, the innocent can be made out to be terrible. This happens a lot more than you think because honestly, we’re a really biased group of people, so I need you to also remember if you think something is up, don’t wait to look for a full story, unless you don’t really care about it that is.
Finally, please be mindful of where you obtain information and when you do decide that the topic is worth researching. Unfortunately, due to the fact that money is involved, people even try to impede your pursuit of knowledge. So, I’ll give you some tips when it comes to “internet credibility.” When looking at information on a website the most telltale sign that the website is legitimate is if it ends with ".org," ".gov," or ".edu." These sites tend to carry a little more credibility. Secondly, the date should be, and other organizations are reporting on the same story. If you see an article that has typos and bad grammar, that is a sign that you should be a little skeptical about it. Even worse, if you see that the headlines are using words such as "epic," "amazing," "unbelievable," or "incredible." This is worth some hesitation because a headline shouldn’t have to work that hard in order to grab your attention.
In conclusion, the internet is not a place where everyone wants to help you so please take your time and make sure you know how true the information is that you’re getting.
By Mossimo Perry
If you have searched for something on the web or have a social media account, you have most likely come across some form of fake news. Now fake news can be broken down into misinformation and disinformation which sound quite familiar but have different definitions. Misinformation is false or inaccurate information such as rumors, opinions, and information that cannot be backed up with factual evidence. Disinformation is a deliberate attempt to mislead you. Often this content is malicious which spreads suspicion and uncertainty amongst the population. Most of the time misinformation spreads faster than factual information because it appeals to the negative narrative our society wants to give off for everything.
According to the article "How misinformation spreads on social media—And what to do about it", a tweet containing false information received far more engagement than the accurate tweet. Both tweets were released at the same time and within a 24-hour period, the accurate tweet still performed poorly compared to the false one. You can see how easy it is to read something containing inaccurate information just because it had a lot more engagement and gets pushed around social media.
Here are a couple of ways you can detect and avoid false information on the vast internet. A very important factor in determining if the information is accurate is the source. Usually, sites with the .gov are quite reliable and accurate in whatever is said on the site. For example, pbs.org is a great source of information but leans more on the left side of political bias. Foxnews.com is quite the common source of news for a lot of people but did you know this source is rated 36.5 out of 64 for reliability and leans toward the right side of the political bias scale according to this 2023 interactive media bias chart? A source that is quite reliable and is pretty neutral when it comes to political bias is NBC news which scores 61 out of 64 for reliability. When searching for a good news outlet, you want to consider these things so your opinion on a matter isn’t falsely altered due to where you acquired your information.
Consider who is speaking when reading the article: Is it a first-person perspective or does it have several views on the matter? If it does have multiple sources on different sides of the matter then it probably is more accurate than if it was just one person's opinion. How To Detect Bias In News Media says that we should “demand that those affected by the issue have a voice in coverage” and this is absolutely true. An article that has someone who was directly affected by the issue makes it 10x stronger and most likely more accurate as you have someone who witnessed the incident firsthand. Not having someone who is an expert on the situation leads to a lack of context. This means the article has not seen every aspect of the issue and not seeing all sides of the issue can be interpreted as misinformation.
To wrap up everything said here, try to remember these few tips when surfing the web or scrolling through social media. Always consider where the news comes from as you don't want to listen to an outlet that has a reputation for speaking false and inaccurate information. Use your prior knowledge when questioning if something is true or not. You can even double-check yourself with a reliable source by doing a few google searches. And always remember that everything you might read on the internet does not mean it is the whole truth. Most news sources cover incidents just because of the public attention it brings.
Protect Your Mind
By Jeovanne Finch-Negron
What is reliable and correct information to you? I want you to take a second right now and think about how that would look when reading it. Where there is correct information and news there will always be fake news or misinformation that’s meant to mislead you. I know that you are reading this thinking “Why is this really important to me to learn about and why should I care?”
You should be worried about what kind of effect that misleading and incorrect information has on you because of the negative effects it can have on your mind, especially at a very young age. In a way when we read informative articles that are not true and are meant to manipulate the way you think to side with the author’s ideas is corrosive to the mind. You can think how is it actually corrosive for my brain but the way you see the world by following a belief that is only one-sided from that information doesn’t allow you to think about it in the full picture. I want you at this exact moment to take ten seconds to think about a time where you saw an article that caught your eye because of how crazy it sounded.
The way an author writes their articles is all for a reason so there is no accident when you read something that doesn’t sound right. Even though the author can lead you into believing fake information there are ways for you to protect yourself from untrustworthy sources of information or authors trying to make you side with their ideals. Anytime that there is something that makes you think is this actually true from any article or and anything someone is saying, challenge those beliefs. Fact check the thought and the beliefs that the other person is trying to get across or the article is working to persuade you to believe what they are telling you. For me, you and other youth like us, we need to be more aware of the information that we are being fed every single day and choosing if we want to believe them.
The misinformation that we as kids can get when scrolling through social media can be corrosive our new developing brains that don’t even know what the real world looks like. If you are looking to fact check something or something catches your interest to look up you should go to trusted websites like New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and BBC for that information. There are so many good sources out there but here are a lot of bad one-sided sources that neglects the other parties’ point of view when reporting a problem. Another indicator of if the source is reliable is by looking at the URL when the end of the search. Some of the thing you would actually looks for is if it says: .GOV, .ORG and .EDU are good signs that your source is reliable but be wary of some of the websites that have .COM at the end of it. This is something that everyone has to be aware of when listening to ideas of others, researching information for a project, looking for what’s on the news and just even when we scroll of social media.
Real or Fake?
By Quentin Gordon-Smith
Dear young scholars, have you ever seen something on the internet that you thought was real but it was actually fake? For example, Stephen Curry making five full-court shots in a row. I know people who have seen that on Tiktok, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat but that was actually fake; he didn’t make five in a row. That’s just one example, there are plenty more examples of something not true going viral.
What is fake news and misinformation? Fake news is something that is not true but is published. The media is biased. They see the things you like and dislike and put more things that you like on your screen to capture you. Think of the internet as a fisherman and you guys are the fish. According to the media bias chart there are good sites to get your news from and bad sites to get your news from. The sites you don’t want to get your information from are Infowars, Enquirer, Newsmax, Palmer Report, RedState, the Daily Caller, the Blaze, and Natural News. Those sites are giving you information that is not true, they are in red. Some sites that are good to get information from are CNN, BBC, NPR, and ABC News; these sites are in the green.
If you are not sure of how to tell what’s real and what’s fake use the Legit-O-Meter. The Legit-O-Meter is a scale to tell what information is good and what information is bad. This scale is in color green for good, yellow for in the middle, and red for fake. According to the Legit-O-Meter things that are in the green are if the website ends in “.org”, “.gov”, or “.edu,” they are usually real. Also, if the headlines seem direct and to the point meaning they tell you what the topic is going to be about, if the website has images with credits, evokes a strong emotional reaction, data is accurate and other organizations are reporting on the same story, and about us information so the site will tell you about the author and organization. Some things in the yellow are “sponsored content” that means they paid for advertisement, has bad grammar and punctuation problems, no information about us, and unusual URL endings such as “.com.co”. Some things in the red are images that seem too good to be true, tons of ads popping up, and the headlines of the story are using the words such as “epic,” “amazing,” “unbelievable,” or “incredible.”
Misinformation spreads by going viral. The fake news that is published gets shared and people talk about it around the world. According to Chris Meserole’s article, “How misinformation spreads on social media and what to do about it” the solution to the problem is “promote police or government accounts so that accurate information is disseminated as quickly as possible. Alternatively, it could also display a warning at the top of its search and trending feeds about the unreliability of initial eyewitness accounts.”
My advice to young scholars is to be careful of what you see on the internet because it might be fake and take your time to find out if that information is true or if it’s fake.
Social Media Cautions
By Terreil Colon
Social media is a technology tool that enables people to exchange information, communicate ideas, and engage in various forms of expression online. The internet is used by 4.6 billion people, or 50% of the world's population, for a range of activities. The Social Dilemma is a documentary that explores the problems and potential uses of social media. It provides instances of how these platforms may be used to profit from users' addictions. Additionally, it includes how misinformation is used to manipulate a person's emotional and behavioral attitudes.
Inaccurate or deceptive information is called misinformation. It is distinct from disinformation, which is willfully false information. If you have a keen eye and look for these certain things in that set of facts, you can spot misinformation. The article titled “How Misinformation spreads on social media-And what to do about it” by Chris Meserole summarizes what misinformation is and how to watch out for it. According to the article, misinformation can be avoided by keeping an eye out for revisions and preventing the spread of false information farther into the statement. Also, try to stop modifying the statement with terms like "not."
Social media is a very popular network right now, but you still need to exercise caution when it comes to reading the information that it distributes. It is due to media bias that you can watch the news or read an article and learn one thing, but learn a completely different thing somewhere else.
The best or ultimate answer, however, centers on people. Our personal interests and ideas shouldn't become more important than other individuals. Demanding online news and their algorithms shouldn’t be able to feed into our impulses as well as our interests.
This is the main thing I warn people to be on the lookout for while using the internet since news is a highly powerful tool and reading inaccurate information may seriously alter your perspective of the world.