Manchester City Library

Manchester, NH's Online Library

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Media Literacy Part 2

June 9th, 2020 · No Comments · City Library, Main Branch, West Branch

Part 1

Key Questions of Media Literacy

In our first segment, we introduced a few questions to ask yourself about news media. We will go into more detail here.

When looking at media, ask yourself:

WHO wrote the story? WHO are the sources?

  • Check for the author of a story. Verify that they are from a legitimate news source. Keep in mind that the article may reflect the bias of the author. 
  • If a quote or statistic is given, verify the source. Check to see that multiple outlets are using the information and that it is accurate. Quotes and statistics can also be taken out of context to fit the story. 

WHEN was it published? WHEN did it happen?

  • Is the information up to date? This is a key detail in the modern age. Information is updated so rapidly that it is often difficult to keep up. Old stories can also see a resurgence. News of a celebrity’s death recirculating years after the fact is just one example of this.  

WHERE is it published?

  • The source of the article can be a major clue as to the validity and/or bias of the story. Some news outlets lean heavily to one side of the political spectrum or the other. This will be a key factor in how the news is portrayed.

HOW is it being presented?

  • Media is constructed to be presented in a certain way, such as to conform to a set agenda (bias). Keep this in mind when looking at camera angles, trimmed video clips, and vocabulary used. These can all be manipulated to incite an emotional response from the consumer (you!). What ISN’T being shown or told can be just as telling as what is being shown. Data can also be manipulated in graphs to fit the agenda of the source.

WHY is it being told? (is it news or is it meant to sway opinion?)

  • Analyze the media to figure out if it’s trying to tell you something or trying to sell you something. Does it use language meant to sway opinion (“I think”, “I believe”, other first-person terminology) or is it neutral?

Remember the tips from Part 1 on identifying an ad!

Graphs and Data manipulation

The way data is presented can be manipulated to fit an agenda. Data can also be misrepresented, intentionally or not. 

This past May, the state of Georgia published a graph of COVID-19 data. At first glance, it appears to show a downwards trend in cases. However, look at the horizontal/x-axis:

Not only are the dates not in chronological order, the individual bars are not in a consistent order, leading to misrepresented data and confusion. The Georgia Department of Health later uploaded a corrected graph.

This was covered by multiple news outlets including FOX and CNN.

Graphs can be very easy to manipulate, so always take a close look at what is being presented, no matter how legitimate the source!

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