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News Literacy Week: keeping up the fight against misinformation

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Mike Moen

(Minnesota News Connection) This week is National News Literacy Week, and according to a Minnesota expert, trust in the media remains low. But there are still plenty of reliable sources, and consumers need to know what to follow and what to avoid. 

A recent Gallup poll reported than only 30 percent of Americans have "a great deal" of trust and confidence in the media. 

Kay Beckermann, a journalism professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead, said there is concern that many people get most of their news from social media because of trust issues. She said that does not help the problem.

"And so, they might be looking at something that is not a trustworthy news source," Beckermann said. "And I think we need to be focusing on, really, helping people understand what is a legitimate news source."

She added a key way to determine if a news organization is trustworthy is by checking if the reporting often includes multiple perspectives and is not one-sided. Being able to back up a claim posted on social media with evidence is another tool. The website offers tips on how to spot misinformation and other red flags. 

Consumers often cite national outlets when voicing their distrust of the news media. Regionally, Beckermann said outlets around Minnesota often do a good job in holding themselves accountable. She strongly encourages readers, viewers and listeners to follow the work of local reporters. 

"The Wall Street Journal is not going to tell me what is happening to me in downtown Moorhead, Minnesota, for example," she said. "But I can look at a local newspaper; I can find out what local businesses are doing. We can talk about local politics, we can talk about local events, things we need to be aware of."

As for news coverage of politics, Beckermann said the classified-documents issue surrounding the White House is a good accountability test. She said with both a Democrat and a Republican being swept up in the events, news organizations that treat the matter with the same level of objectivity, while also being able to lay out any differences, should be viewed as reliable. Beckermann added consumers need to recognize when a candidate they support is worthy of unflattering coverage.