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"A New Age of Journalism; and What it Means moving Forward" by Jeffrey Avina

The 1st amendment states that Congress should make no law that prohibits or abridges the press's right to freedom of speech. Journalists historically have been distrusted by the general public (followed closely by Congress) and sometimes have been worthy of that distrust, but this is not the case today. Today, the work that journalists have been doing around the world is outstanding. Working every day to bring to light the crimes of people such as Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, or Donald Trump. Although the current political climate has not been kind to Journalists, like all things, they adapt. I wanted to know what this meant for journalists moving forward, what do current situations inform future journalists to?

I sat down with Sonoma State University chair of the Communications and Media Studies, Professor Ed Beebout, to discuss this issue. Beebout had a 25-year career in the cable news industry as the lead anchor of KFTY-TV and then began teaching full-time in 2007. I met with him to have a conversation about what aspects of this administration poses a threat to the dissemination of facts and information and how our professors might change their lectures because of it. And it could all be boiled down to one thing, Media Literacy.

If there is one thing above all else that this time will be known for, it is the advent of the Internet. The internet has become a staple of everyday life. I mean, this is an online publication that you are reading from a device that is connected to the Internet. And with the Internet, came Social Media. Social Media has become something of a hindrance when it comes to reporting the facts. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have made it easy to spread fake news stories and facts at large amounts, making it quite difficult to determine whether the story you’re reading is fact over fiction.

“They’re sharing new from friends that may not be legitimate, and if you dig deep enough, you may find that it was from a news source you’ve never even heard of,” says Professor Beebout regarding Social Media. But that is where Media Literacy comes in.

A Wikipedia definition of Media Literacy tells us that it is the practices that allow people to access, critically evaluate, and create media. Beebout believes that being able to decipher the information in front of us could not only help us to solve the problem of “fake news,” but could change much more than that.

Right now in this country, none of us are on the same page. It's kind of like having a different edition to a textbook than the rest of the class if you spent all night studying for a quiz about Punnett squares to only find out that the quiz was actually on cell migration. We are all working from different books when it comes to the news as well. How are we expected to find answers to problems like climate change when 40% of the country doesn’t even believe in its existence thanks to the media organizations that spread these lies.

Beebout expressed concern on this saying, “You could talk to someone of a different political persuasion and not have a productive conversation because people are working off two different sets of ‘facts’ because the vetting wasn’t being done.”

There is an undisputed fact about the state of the country, and that is that we are divided. We are divided in more ways than one but a casualty of that division has been the very definition of a fact. If we come to a consensus on this problem, perhaps we will have the unity to solve more.

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