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'People don't know who to trust': students learn how to spot misinformation

News Literacy Week focuses discerning fact from fiction
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Posted at 5:45 PM, Jan 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-25 20:50:32-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — This week we are partnering with the nonpartisan News Literacy Project for News Literacy Week, which helps shine a light on discerning fact from fiction in the media.

MIT researchers found that fake news stories are 70% more likely to be shared than true stories.

And according to their research, they found it takes six times longer for true stories to reach the same number of people as false ones.

That's why it's so important to learn how to combat misinformation.

Grace Beckner took on a big job during her senior year at Trevecca Nazarene University.

She is editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

Beckner is well aware of the misinformation that is all around us.

"I think a lot of people just don't know who to trust," Becker said.

COVID had a huge impact on Beckner and others her age.

The director of Trevecca's journalism program has seen how it helped shape this generation's view of information.

"I think COVID caused them to look for information. They felt that immediate need for good information," said Associate Professor Jo Ellen Werking Weedman.

"They are a little overwhelmed with the amount of information that exists in the world, but I actually see a lot of curiosity in this age," Weedman said.

That curiosity led Beckner and others to journalism, where they learn to verify the information by getting more than one source and to identify conspiracy theories that claim to have answers no one else has.

"As far as how I consume news, I'm definitely very careful who I listen to," Beckner said.

Far away from the journalism classroom, Jo Crowe knows what it's like to get bad information.

"It just disturbed me, you know?" Crowe said.

She works two jobs and said she does not have time to verify all the news that comes her way.

A friend recently told her scientists have just found a way to use mosquitoes to deliver the COVID vaccine.

"When I got home from work, I looked it up on the internet, and it was there," Crowe said.

She saw it on social media and an online publication.

"It bothered me because I wouldn't want to be bitten by a mosquito not knowing what that mosquito has in it," Crowe said.

Peter Adams with the News Literacy Project said the false mosquito COVID vaccination rumor likely started because scientists have studied using mosquitoes to deliver a Malaria vaccine.

"Often misinformation will have some seed of truth," Adams said.

But he said some groups intentionally manipulate and distort information to advance a certain view of the world.

"User-generated content really is the wild west. You don't know what you are getting," Adams said.

We told Crowe what she had read was wrong.

She said she struggles with what to believe, but she's at least willing to question the information she's seeing.

Peter Adams said fact-checking websites like RUMORGUARD from the News Literacy Project immediately expose some of the most viral and harmful lies.

At Trevecca, and schools across the country, students are focused on learning how to spot misinformation.

"Something that you are seeing on just one social media platform for instance, we're talking about how to go and check that information," Weedman said.

Students are learning getting good information takes work, but our democracy depends on it.

"It does pain me when we talk with my classmates about how you get your news and they say 'Twitter,' I scream a little bit," Beckner said.


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