College students consume a wide variety of media on any given day. From watching a news report about earthquakes happening halfway around the world to streaming the newest comedy, we take information in like a sponge.
But what’s more important than the information we take in is how we interpret it. News literacy is crucial to understanding how we do that.
According to the Center for Media Literacy, media literacy is what allows media consumers “to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms.”
Vanessa Greenwood, a communication and media arts professor at Montclair State University, is a specialist in media literacy. She explained why media literacy is an important skill for students to use.
“We need to understand that there’s a lot of information available to us, but information is not the same as knowledge,” Greenwood said. “You’ve gotta convert information that you access into knowledge, and then knowledge that you can apply in a productive, truthful way, then becomes wisdom.”
News literacy is a sub-topic of media literacy involving current and past news. Montclair State’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is partnering with the News Literacy Project in order to spread news literacy to young adults for the annual Bateman Case Study Competition.
A survey done as part of the project found that all of the 200 members of the campus community who answered questions believed misinformation exists, and 87% of them believe that they can help fight misinformation.
Miriam Aguirre is a member of the PRSSA who recently worked on the project. She discussed how social media affects the way students consume information.
“With social media, I feel like every organization, every company is posting information,” Aguirre said. “Also, people share more and it’s quicker for things to spread on social media.”
Mica Sells, senior communications and media studies major, described how he understood media literacy.
“Media literacy is [an] awareness that you have when engaging with certain media artifacts,” Sells said. “So an example [is] Kanye West [and his music]. Being media literate would be [knowing] not to play Kanye’s music in a mosque.”
Sells also shared his own opinion on social media and news literacy.
“Social media’s a terrible place to get your news from, but I feel [students] will catch on to some event that’s happening through social media,” Sells said. “I should probably take more initiative to go to a different news source every morning or something, or a podcast I could listen to.”
While some people get the news on social media, some students do not purposely seek out news whatsoever. Greenwood shared some insight on why this might be.
“Our world is in a very tumultuous place,” Greenwood said. “And so I think for safety and sanity and for our mental health, sometimes we block out that information.”
Caitlin Agulian, a junior hospitality, sports, events and tourism major, described how she remains media literate.
“I take everything I read and think about it,” Aguilan said. “I don’t just read one article or watch one thing and form my opinion. I try my best to get every perspective before forming my own opinion about a topic.”
Agulian also shared why she feels that students like her become media literate.
“I think it’s important for college students to be media literate because one day soon we will be out there having to figure everything out,” Agulian said. “We need to be ready for what the world brings to us and the best way to do that is to keep up to date with media. But we also need to know what we are talking about with knowledge and our own opinions, not someone else’s opinion that we heard.”