New journalism course teaches news literacy skills

Photo courtesy of AP Images. Reporters raise their hands during the daily news conference with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the White House, in Washington, May 3, 2018.

BY ALEXANDRO ZATARAIN

STAFF REPORTER

How do we, as a society, curb the rise of fake news? According to College of the Desert’s media instructor Laurilie Jackson, it’s by teaching the public how to weed out disingenuous and misleading stories.

News Literacy is a new course Jackson wrote after she attended The State of News Capitol Conference in Sacramento, Calif. Jackson learned how other colleges and universities were writing this course into their curriculum. She also had a chance to meet Governor Gavin Newsom and discussed the future of journalism during a journalists mixer. The conference was part of the California News Publishers Association.

The course J-005 will be offered at College of the Desert’s Palm Desert campus in the Spring 2020 semester. Enrollment is limited. Jackson encourages students to sign up soon.

The goal is to teach students of all ages how to interpret the legitimacy of news in an age of fake news abundance. “I think in this day and age, especially with our political environment, people have to be smarter about the information that’s fed to them every day,” Jackson explained.

The amount of misinformation from the public comes with the vast amount of information floating on the internet and social media and people don’t know how to decipher whether it’s real or not. “This is scary,” said Jackson, “Especially knowing that people make important decisions based on the information they consume from both credible and non-credible media outlets.”

According to a 2016 study conducted the Pew Research Center, 23% of the 1,002 U.S. adults polled shared fake news stories, knowingly and unknowingly. Additionally, only 39% were very confident that they could recognize fabricated news stories.

Jackson, a former KESQ and CBS news anchor and reporter, looks to bring in professional journalists as guest speakers. The goal would be to have these speakers present first-hand accounts of what happens in the newsroom and how trained professionals create ethical, reliable and accurate news. “When people understand the process of news development and production, it is easier to become more critical of the information presented,” said Jackson.

The course will also focus on the importance of local media, “If everyone is looking to the 24-hour news networks and the internet for their information, they’re not going to get a sense of what’s happening in their communities from a local perspective. To make informed decisions in their world, people need to understand the issues locally. They need to know the credible sources of news and information and be wise about where to look.”

As the consolidation of media has risen to prominence since the 1990s, thanks to President Bill Clinton’s Telecommunications Act of 1996, local press has deteriorated, and as as result provided less perspective due to newsroom consolidation. As of 2016, two decades after the signing of the act, six corporations own 90% of the media.

“If we’re taking away local journalism and not supporting it, not giving it the means to survive, we’re giving folks in larger markets permission to tell us what’s important in our towns,” Jackson said.

Although the course is offered to COD students, community members are invited to register and take part.

“This course is labeled as a journalism course, but it’s not just for journalism students, it’s important for everybody.” Jackson believes it’s vital for citizens to be critical consumers in an era of information overload. For students, this course falls in the General Education elective category for Social and Behavioral Science.

News Literacy, J-005 will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. Classes start on January 28 and run through May 21. For more information about the course, contact Laurilie Jackson at ljackson@collegeofthedesert.edu.

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