A newly launched News Literacy Network is aiming to “connect, collaborate, and expand together what it means to be news literate,” according to its founder.
The network, launched by constructive journalism advocate Jodie Jackson, aims to teach people how to engage with the news in a way that helps them stay informed without being overwhelmed with negative feelings, with an emphasis on both solutions journalism and media literacy.
Jackson told Press Gazette she “couldn’t watch the news anymore” after finding it “too depressing” and was surprised to find she was among a growing group who felt the same.
“It was a real gradual progression that moved me from someone who watched [the news] daily to someone who could no longer stand it, and I was really motivated to stay informed,” Jackson, author of the book You Are What You Read: Why changing your media diet can change the world, said.
“So that’s why I went back to university to do a masters in positive psychology and understand the impact of the news on mental health.”
The Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2022 found that under-35s are increasingly deciding to avoid the news, with the most common reason being due to the negative effect it has on their mood.
What is solutions journalism?
The News Literacy Network, Jackson said, will offer in-depth resources about what solutions journalism is and how to find it, with an aim to go into newsrooms in the future to talk about how to create it.
Jackson said: “We are starved of solutions in our media environment, and I’m not talking about stories that make us feel good… I’m talking about real investigative journalism that reports on progress taking place so we can understand how issues are being dealt with and what success looks like.”
Solution based journalism is the term given to investigative journalism that looks at how to fix the problems often highlighted in the news.
“What’s really important about reporting on solutions is a critical approach, not for the sake of being critical but just recognising the limitations,” Jackson said. “What can often happen is that people can over-celebrate them and they become undermined because of the hype.”
She added: “It’s about maintaining a realistic perspective on what is working….and why it’s working. A lot of times people report on the person creating change rather than the process of change itself. It’s the mechanisms of change that are the real victors in any story of solutions.”
Jackson said a fundamental error in reporting of solution news is to not treat it like any other story that requires “construction and deconstruction”, but that one problem is that “training for solutions journalism in schools just doesn’t exist”.
“The simplest thing [news organisations] can do is just ask one question following everything they’re already doing: ‘Is anyone doing anything about this?… And that’s a great starting place.
“But the whole point is that with solutions journalism from a consumer and industry side, there is a real process of education required. It needs to be given the same credence [as other journalism].”
Why is media literacy important?
The News Literacy Network can now connect those who need information about media literacy and solutions journalism to more than 100 organisations and 500 resources.
The News Literacy Network also aims to cater to educators and parents looking to improve children’s media diets and limit the “distorted picture of the world” Jackson believes the current news landscape is offering.
Jackson said realising she could not be the mediator to what her children saw in the news was the “wake-up call” needed to alert her to the fact that current guidance for how children should interact with news was “not enough”, and which caused her to look towards media literacy.
“It’s almost unanimous that you limit [children’s] exposure…and this felt so incomplete because when a product is this potentially harmful, you change the product, you don’t change the child.”
The News Literacy Network aims to cover “the three pillars of news literacy”, which focus on the “external construction of information, how it’s produced…and the deconstruction of information, how it’s processed”.
Jackson said she found that organisations currently tackling news literacy “focus heavily on misinformation” which she said is a “central pillar” but not the only issue.
Jackson said: “Even if news literacy in its current state succeeded and everyone was able to successfully verify information and… only consume truthful content, we would still have a fundamental misunderstanding of the world.
“Our news culture perpetuates a distorted picture of the world and as a result we have an inaccurate understanding of it and the threats we face…So for me there needed to be expansion of the term news literacy so we can expand the possible solutions for it… and understanding the impact of the negativity bias.
“We need to not just seek truth, we need to counter bias. We need to actually restore some sense of balance and understanding with the information we’re consuming”.
In terms of how consumers can shift their news intake, Jackson said that although there is an “appetite for negativity [because] we are primed to pay attention to threats” there is a “process of education” needed to “manage an information diet to manage how we approach problems and feel more resilient”.
News Literacy Network has partnered with three schools to run a six-part pilot programme for sixth-form students to help train them in news literacy, focusing on the psychology of news, the role of solution journalism and the role of the news generally. The aim of the programme is to scale it up to become more widely accessible across the UK.
Press Gazette is hosting the Future of Media Technology Conference. For more information, visit NSMG.live
Picture: Tobias Albers-Heinemann/Pixabay
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog