Letter: Media literacy needs to be taught in school

To the editor,

Fake news. These two words have become a joke through the hysteria people have made it out to be since the recent presidential election, especially when President Donald Trump praises this term as if it’s the gospel by having denied answering questions for news outlets, such as CNN, at his press conferences, and constantly tweeting his views on fake news nearly every day.

If CNN can’t be trusted as reliable news, then who and what is fake news then? Fake news is a present and literal term used to define Yellow Journalism. Yellow Journalism is a scheme many news outlets use to lure readers into reading their “eye-opening” column of misleading and false information. According to a 60 Minutes interview between NBC host Scott Pelley and Jestin Coler, the purpose of this scheme is for these news outlets to secure a profit, while not informing nor caring about how dumbfounded or enraged their readers are from the use of this scheme. [Source: Pelley, Scott and Jestin Coler].

You also may be thinking deciding what news is fake or real is an obvious distinction to make. There have been numerous examples to counter this and of news outlets (usually low tier) having diligently executed a formal news presentation disguise as if it were reported from Fox News. For example, according to Great Projects Film Company, Inc., William Randolph Hearst, being the head of a reliable newspaper outlet, the New York Journal, had enough societal reputation to persuade war rumors of the U.S posing threats towards Cuba (during the Cuban war), which had ultimately lead to the Spanish-American war. [Source: Great Projects Film Company, Inc.]

To contrast the buzz of this example to present time, some of these outlets have successfully lured people to their stories by reaching the top of social media trending charts, and even national TV. Just imagine the type of results there would be if there was a William Randolph Hearst today that had claimed that the United States military was pushing past the DMZ line and into North Korea.

In the end, the people have all the right to believe Trump’s notorious claims of CNN being fake news and call it a day. However, the lack of media literacy still leaks among society to allow these news outlets to continue manipulating our daily lives.

A notable topic that contributes to showing our media-stupidity is politics. Politics today is a dividing factor among society simply because of the strong political views people possess in supporting their candidate. With the internet, this division and hate is seen on both sides of the political spectrum, by online-commenters contaminating comment sections and blogs with hate speech towards people that have commented otherwise upon their political beliefs.

The U.S. presidential election season is the perfect time for these fake news outlets to create their unsuspecting “trap” in order to successfully pull off the Yellow Journalism scheme.

Therefore, here came the fake news story of Pizzagate, a rumor/speculation that accused Hillary Clinton of being part of a child-sex ring with ties to a family pizza restaurant in Washington D.C. This story resulted in both sides of the political spectrum jumping on it and each other. Social media outlets exploded on this story, which meant more money for these news outlets, however these outlets didn’t realize that they had played with “fire” (politics) among the people. This fire was fueled among online forums and discussion boards until Edgar Welsh entered this restaurant with a loaded, automatic weapon, to investigate. Besides Welsh being affected by this fake news, the people in the restaurant have been traumatized, presumably for the rest of their life, just because these outlets wanted more money to fit in their pockets. [Source: 60 Minutes S49 Ep27].

This example of fake news enforces the idea of how easily news outlets are able to disguise bias/misinformation as “news” to society. “News” as we know it today is valuable information for our daily lives, but it’s still unknown to how and what “strings” are being pulled to making it.

All Connecticut schools should be required to teach media literacy education. To support requiring media literacy classes in Connecticut schools, visit goo.gl/mUZ1y6 to sign an online petition.

Sebastian Puczynski