By HiLite Staff
Through mass media and the Internet, high school students in today’s society have access to news sources around the clock.
There is no doubt that the media is forever changing and expanding, allowing news to be spread to a larger number of people in a shorter amount of time. However, not all these sources of information are credible, nor should they be relied upon for news. In the face of increased exposure to mass media, students must have a good understanding of which news sources are reliable.
According to the Pew Research Center*, more than 60 percent of Americans looked to television stations for information about the swine flu and 49 percent used the Internet for information. In a Pew Research Center survey, 25 percent said the Internet was the most reliable news source about the swine flu.
Since many of today’s news sources are changing to online, students should understand and research the background of a news source with regards to bias and credibility.
Also according to the Pew Research Center, the most visited Internet sight with regards to swine flu in April 2009 was the federal CDC.
However, Wikipedia, a sight where the public is free to write and make changes to articles, ranked as the second most visited site. In addition, Myspace ranked as the fifth most visited and Facebook ranked ninth.
Media literacy is not something only high school students are lacking. According to Pew Internet, 50 percent of Americans with a college degree or higher educations use Wikipedia due to its convenience and the wide range of topics it covers. Students must understand that some news sources are more accurate than others and learn to rely only on credible sources.
This task of interpreting reliability is made harder by opinionated Web sites and television shows.
According to an unscientific poll on Time.com**, 44 percent of viewers chose John Stewart, the comedian who hosts “The Daily Show,” as the most trusted newscaster over the anchors of three major networks.
Students and society as a whole must learn that this show and many like it, while providing entertainment, should not be seen as credible nor relied upon as a news source.
As technology and the rapidly changing mass media blurs the line between entertainment and credible news, it becomes increasingly important for students to become media literate and know what is legitimate information.
The wealth of information the media provides is not useful to students if they cannot discern what is reliable.
While it does not matter where students look to for news, it is important they research the background of the news source, recognize biases in today’s media and understand what is credible and can be relied upon.
*Editor’s note: Media literacy in action. Pew Research Center is an unbiased research organization providing information through polls and surveys.
**Time.com’s poll is unscientific since it surveys only viewers on the site, which may not accurately represent the entire population.