Information is an important part of our society. People depend on it to guide them through a complex world.
The invention of movable type in 15th century Europe revolutionized the communication of ideas. This invention made it possible to print and publish information to masses of people
This free flow of information eventually led to a free press in many parts of the world. But because information is so powerful, many world leaders have tried to stop it.
French leader Napoleon Bonaparte once said he feared four newspapers more than 1,000 bayonets.
The Chinese emperor who oversaw the building of the Great Wall famously used his power to stop published information. Qin Shi Huang ordered the burning of thousands of books on subjects he wanted to keep from the people. He even had hundreds of scholars executed for refusing to give up their book collections
Even powerful leaders in modern times have succeeded in blocking material they do not want the people to see, as in Russia and China.
But when true information is allowed to reach the people, good results can follow. Information has fueled successful revolutions in many nations. Government atrocities have been identified and world leaders have been forced to be held accountable for their actions.
Advances in media technology have made words and images more powerful and widespread than ever. Smartphones and social media have become quick and easy tools to receive and share news and information. These tools have even made it possible for anyone with a device to gather and publish “news.”
This media environment makes it important for us to be able to recognize reliable information. True information gives us the facts to guide our decisions and actions.
In addition to informing, news can also divert.
This means it can focus our attention on something we are interested in as a kind of escape. An example would be news about subjects we seek out for enjoyment, such as entertainment, celebrities or sports
News can also serve as a way to connect us as human beings. This could include stories about tragedies or uplifting events that affect us emotionally. Such stories can lead people to join a cause or donate money to help those in need.
No matter what kind of news we experience, we have to be able to tell whether it is authentic or not. In the coming lessons, we will show you the steps; how you can do this
This lesson is based on the News Literacy class at the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University. For more on how to become a news literate citizen, go to The Center for News Literacy.
Words in This Story
type - n. standardized letters for printing
masses - n. large groups of people
bayonet - n. Knife at the end of a rifle
atrocity - n. a cruel and terrible act
device - n. an item, such as mobile phone or radio
reliable - adj. can be trusted to do the correct thing
divert - v. to change direction, or move one's attention