Deciphering the truth as we consume more media during the pandemic

Local News

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Most people have access to a smartphone or computer and during the pandemic, likely using them more often, which means more access to and time spent consuming media.

All media is created for a specific reason. Dr. Nancy Garcia, an assistant professor of media communication at West Texas A&M University, said when you consume media, it is important to know who created it and why.

“Make sure that you know who’s putting the information out there, whether it’s a person, news source, media company, even commercials, you know. Who is putting the commercial out there? Who’s sponsoring? Who is paying for these commercials? Because the messages can be deceiving a lot of times,” Dr. Garcia said.

Media is an all-encompassing word.

“I feel like we live in a world right now where a lot of the problems are being blamed on the media. And this big media, you know, nobody really knows which specific one, but the media is to blame for everything. So what exactly is the media?” Dr. Garcia asked.

It can include TV, the social media sites on your phone, your favorite YouTube channel, etc. all in addition to news.

According to Dictionary.com, media literacy is defined as the ability or skills to critically analyze for accuracy, credibility, or evidence of bias the content created and consumed in various media, including radio and television, the internet, and social media.

Dr. Garcia said whether the information is incorrect, typically referred to as misinformation, or intentionally incorrect, usually called disinformation, some messages can be deceiving.

“If we see something on the news or any channel that we don’t like, well, we have access to the computer. Open up your computer, spend five minutes researching the topic, and see if the information that the news is presenting you is accurate.” said Dr. Garcia.

Dr. Garcia also said if the media you consume always makes you feel extreme emotions, that is not a good thing. All these media—all the time can be too much.

“Sometimes I’m actually kind of scared because of some of the things that are seen on social media. If we accept them all at face value, it might lead some people down a troubling path and we did see that back on January 6,” said Dr. Dave Rausch, Teel Bivins professor of political science at WTAMU.

Dr. Rausch said consuming media with different viewpoints can help us find balance.

“Maybe we need to all recognize our biases going into the media,” said Dr. Rausch. “Whenever we read an article, you know recognize what your bias is before you read it, and see if that’s changed any after you read the article,” said Dr. Rausch.

Dr. Rausch said it could be helpful for people to consume media that largely disagrees with their viewpoint.

He continued, “Some of the issues with division, they only watch this news source, or they only read this newspaper, or they only pay attention to that website. That becomes a bit of a challenge.”

When asked about media bias, Dr. Garcia said, “Any information that is presented to us is going to have some kind of bias, you know, just by selecting the words or selecting the topic, you are already engaging in bias. But you have to remember that the best information is the one that’s trying to be more truthful, more accurate, more fair in presenting the information.”

Dr. Garcia said because there is so much information available to us, it is extremely important to check not only the sources but even the people quoted in news stories.

“If there are more people talking about the topic, how are they talking about the topic? Are they talking about in a similar way? Are they different points of view? Did they have the same sources? Does somebody else have a different source? Who are the sources? And so you know, it takes just a few more minutes to do that,” Dr. Garcia added.

According to Dr. Garcia, it is each individual’s responsibility to verify information so that they themselves are not spreading false information.

Dr. Garcia added, “That is the problem. I think responsibility is something that we really need to embrace. We are responsible for what we consume, we are responsible for what our kids consume, and we are responsible for the information that we share as well.”

Ultimately, she said we are each responsible for some of what is happening in our society.

“We have to understand that we are responsible for some of the things that are happening. You know, we don’t check the information that we share before we share it. We get into arguments every time—we don’t verify sources. We don’t teach our kids to understand the difference between fact and fiction. So yeah, I just encourage everyone to take responsibility,” Dr. Garcia said.

Teaching kids to understand more about the media they consume is key, especially during the pandemic with more screen time and fewer events to attend.

“Most Americans in today’s world get their news from social media,” said Belinda Crelia-Palacios, executive director of Amarillo Children’s Home. “They’re getting informed by celebrities, by influencers, and by people that usually have a biased opinion. So, we have to be very careful with our kids with that because there’s a lot of misinformation.”

In a world with more media, and more news all at our fingertips, Crelia-Palacios said adults should be teaching kids how to consume media—and overseeing their use of devices.

“There is so much that is going on in the world. Let’s just look at the last year, year-and-a-half. It’s been incredibly crazy,” Crelia-Palacios said. “When you get phones for your kids, putting down those ground rules about, ‘Look, I want to know what you’re looking at, I want to see the content that you’re reading,’ and then talking to kids having that regular dialogue.”

She continued, “Then also sitting down with your kids and actually watching the ‘news’ news, that can be extremely helpful, because then it helps them understand the difference between the social media, you know, news piece versus actual news that’s coming from journalists.”

Both Drs. Rausch and Garcia agreed that families spending time explaining media consumption to kids is a good start.

“Maybe we need to have a little bit more sort of mediated social media reading. Instead of just having the kids locked away in their their bedrooms, reading all the social media, maybe parental involvement, or teacher involvement,” added Dr. Rausch.

Dr. Garcia said, “I think this is where parents come in, and you have to really sit down with your kids and tell them that it’s their responsibility to find information that is valuable to them, that is actually giving them the resources that they need to make a good decision whether you know, regardless of the topic, I think it’s responsibility is a big key here.”

Click here for media literacy tips for kids from Common Sense Media, and click here for information from Media Literacy Now.

Watch the videos below to see Kaley’s full interviews with Dr. Nancy Garcia and Belinda Crelia-Palacios:


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