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WCPO partners with News Literacy Project to help people better understand journalism

Posted at 5:00 AM, Jan 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-28 05:01:09-05

How do you even know what to trust anymore?

In a time where there is information -- and misinformation -- coming at you from multiple different directions, it can be difficult for some people to discern what is a reliable source and what isn’t.

That’s why the News Literacy Project works with media partners and students to help young people learn what to trust. The project is a nonpartisan, national nonprofit that is leading National News Literacy Week this week.

The News Literacy Project has partnered with WCPO and our parent company, the E.W. Scripps Co., which is based right here in Cincinnati. As part of that partnership, a team of our journalists worked closely with students at Hughes STEM High School in Clifton to produce a news story.

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RELATED: Behind the scenes of WCPO’s reporting partnership with Hughes STEM High School

I hope the students learned significant lessons about the news business and how we do our jobs.

The News Literacy Project is a perfect fit for our newsroom. One of our biggest goals at WCPO is to build trust with you, our audience.

I have seen firsthand how one of the challenges our society faces is a lack of understanding about sources and how journalism and news organizations work. Often people make assumptions about what we do.

And then there are the cries of fake news or the phone calls about something a person read on social media that has no basis in fact.

When we talk about fake or misleading news stories, I think most people think about political stories.

But I remember fake clickbait stories popping up around 2014 saying that various celebrities were moving to (insert name of your small-ish town) or describing horrific crimes. These stories were replicated over and over with just the name of the town changed so that people from those towns would share the articles.

The students at Hughes described to our journalists fake kidnapping stories circulating among their social networks and spreading fear.

There are bad actors out there specifically trying to mislead the public. That hurts journalism. It hurts you if you are taken in by these scams. And it hurts our society when people don’t know who or what to trust.

At the dinner table, when my two elementary school age boys start talking about something they read on the internet, they know they are going to immediately get questions from me or my wife, who is a former newspaper reporter and editor.

  • Where did you read that?
  • What do you know about the company that posted the article?
  • What sources did the article cite?
  • How do you know it is true or legitimate?
  • Have other people reported something similar?

They’ve been trained since a young age to be able to separate real sources from sketchy ones. But not everyone has parents that have spent most of their working lives in newsrooms.

In fact, a 2018 Pew Research Center Study found that only 21% of U.S. adults had ever spoken with or been interviewed by a journalist. Among adults ages 18 to 29, that number drops to 17%.

That’s why News Literacy Week is so important. Everyone needs to be armed with the ability to separate fact from fiction.

If you have any questions about our industry, distinguishing fact from fiction or a news source, always feel free to reach out to me at mike.canan@wcpo.com.

Mike Canan is the Senior Director of Local Media Content at WCPO. Contact him at mike.canan@wcpo.com. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram at @Mike_Canan.