Why News Literacy Is an Absolutely Essential Skill

As a communications professional, and PRSA 2021 chair, I am increasingly frustrated by, and concerned about, the continued proliferation of mis- and disinformation in our society and around the world.

I find it ironic and disheartening that one of the biggest news stories of our time is the rise of what have become known as “fake news” and “alternative facts.”

A 2020 report from the Institute for Public Relations found that Americans view misinformation (61 percent) and disinformation (58 percent) to be major problems in society, more so than illegal drug use or abuse (55 percent), crime (55 percent), gun violence (54 percent) and political partisanship (53 percent).

What this and many other research studies and surveys tell me is that news literacy is an absolutely essential skill for everyone to have to navigate the information overload we are constantly experiencing.

This week, the News Literacy Project and The E.W. Scripps Company are joining forces to present the second annual National News Literacy Week, which includes the rollout of a public awareness campaign, quizzes, tips and tools to help promote news literacy and a free press in American democracy. You can find details at newslit.org.

I believe we should view National News Literacy Week as an urgent and renewed call to action, intensifying our commitment to combat the flow of disinformation and its destructive consequences.

President Biden said in his inaugural address last week, “We must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.” As communications professionals, we are uniquely qualified to help do just that.

Michelle Olson, APR, is the 2021 chair of PRSA.

[Illustration credit: takasu]

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