I almost missed daylight saving time in California. While taking a break from nonstop news, I turned off the TV and other devices over a sunny spring weekend. The 24 hour news cycle had taken its toll and I was motivated to power off during the glorious daytime weather.
By Monday morning I was already behind, almost missing the time change and nearly making the kids late for school. I needed to do a better job of staying informed without getting overwhelmed by the constant flow of breaking news. I needed a refresher on media literacy!
Thankfully, Common Sense Media broached the topic with their latest report called News and America’s Kids. Although the research is focused on kids and teens, many of their findings and recommendations are also helpful for adults. While reviewing the report on how young people gather and perceive the news, I found excellent tools for becoming a smarter news consumer. This report prompted me to take a step back and rethink my own approach to news.
I’ve started to focus on three main areas: 1) the quality of news content, 2) the method of news gathering, and 3) the awareness of news habits. By paying attention to each topic, I’m confident I can get back on track. Here’s the plan!
1. Think critically about the quality of news content by brushing up on media literacy.
If you navigate to the homepage of Common Sense Media, under Parent Concerns, the first option is News and Media Literacy. Click that! In this section you will find ways to spot fake news, reviews on credible news sites, fact checking resources, and explanations about journalistic definitions of fact versus opinion. I especially like News Literacy 101 which offers tips and techniques for thinking critically about information. Should we believe everything we hear? Who is the source? What are some alternative points of view? How objective is the segment? Do you notice any bias? These are all great questions to help discern the credibility of incoming information.
2. Manage methods for consuming news into more predictable formats. Don’t forget about slow news options like print, podcasts, or standard daily news segments.
In search of slower, long form news, my husband and I went on a mini date to the magazine stand at Barnes & Noble. We picked up a few periodicals we’d missed over the years. From the progressive left to the conservative right, there was a wide range of titles to choose from. Immersing ourselves in a few magazines was a refreshing way to engage in thoughtful discourse during these interesting times. The time delay of seeing information in print (on topics that were headlines a week prior) can lend perspective on hot button issues.
Likewise, podcasts and TV shows deliver current events in a dedicated listening setting. With a set timeframe to listen to the news, I’m less likely to be distracted by random headlines throughout the day.
3. Recognize binge behavior. Awareness is a great first step to help minimize wasted time.
I recently organized my iPhone into specific screens with folders of apps for various uses. For example, I have a folder titled “Binge Break”. In this folder are social media apps like Instagram and Twitter, in addition to news apps like The Skimm. Putting the BINGE label on the folder has deterred me from accessing it more often than necessary. It makes me think, “Is it worth my time to binge, or should I be doing something more useful?” The simple but effective tactic of organizing a desktop or device should not be undervalued when so much of our lives are spent online.
Taking control of media input us helping me think more deeply about a topic rather than merely reacting to it. Thanks Common Sense Media for getting the ball rolling!
Photo credit [Flickr creative commons]