MU to Study News Literacy amongst Students

Scholars at the University of Missouri are developing a new way to measure news literacy among teenagers.

The project will be run by Stephanie Craft, an associate professor in the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She will lead the research and says understanding news literacy is especially important because new technology has complicated for consumers of news to find and process information.

“With all the new technology and the Internet, it is more difficult for people to identify reliable news sources and differentiate them from unreliable sources,” Craft said.

“A lot more confusion exists about where news comes from. The information landscape is a confusing place these days, so the more we can do to figure out what people understand about the news and how they identify news sources, the better we can understand how news affects people’s decisions.”

One of the key factors of journalism is the role of educating the public about important events and issues, but it requires the audience to be able to critically think about what they consume in the media. Evaluating the level of an individual’s “news literacy” has long been a challenging task for educators and media researchers.

A focus group made up of Chicago high school students will be used to facilitate the research. The focus groups will then be used to develop a survey that can accurately measure participants’ news literacy.

Craft believes this measuring tool will be an important step towards helping develop citizens who can adequately decipher media messages and keep up with credible information about their communities.

“News literacy is seen as an important component of democracy,” Craft said. “It is not just that I follow the news, but that I know enough about how the news was produced so that I can make good decisions through how I vote or what I buy.”

This research is funded by a $50,000 grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. This comes as part of nearly $5 million that 22 organizations will receive over the next two years to help them strengthen quality journalism, promoting news literacy and protecting press freedoms.