This week marks the beginning of the third annual media literacy week. With fake and misleading news continuing to dominate the headlines, media literacy week’s mission — to highlight the power of media literacy and its essential role in education today — has never seemed so timely.
This is particularly true for those in the ad tech and media space. It is imperative for industry players, such as my employer, (whose firm policy against fake news and a history of commitment to consumer trust and long-term publisher sustainability is detailed here), to come together to combat the problem of misleading news via process, people, and policy. I also believe that industry has a moral responsibility to educate and engage the larger public on the issue as well.
Consumers need to understand how the complex ad-tech space affects them as they spend ever more time online. They also need to have better context for the content they are consuming, so they continue to ask the right questions, and stay critical of the information they see online.
This is one reason why I’m so excited to be working with the LAMP (The Learning About Multimedia Project) as Disruption Hub lead of its 22×20 campaign. 22×20 is a nonpartisan, nationwide media literacy and civics campaign to help every teen — 22 million in the US who will be of voting age by the next election — cast informed votes in the 2020 election and beyond.
The 22×20 campaign directly addresses a perceived crisis in the U.S. around youth media literacy and civic participation. According to analysis done by CIRCLE, only 50% of 18-29 year olds voted in the 2016 election. Meanwhile, a 2016 Stanford study showed that more than 80% of high school students do not question the source of news claims made on social media, and 82% of middle school students have difficulty distinguishing between online advertising and news. This data not only speaks to a need to equip youth today with the skills to discern fact from fiction, but also a need to empower them to engage with our civic process.
To quote Estefania Alba, one of the bright and engaged 16-year-old’s working with 22×20 (who recently wrote about her experience with The LAMP and 22×20 for Teen Vogue), “Just like voting gives you a voice, media literacy hands you the microphone and empowers you to have an opinion.”
As a contributor to 22×20’s three-year mission, I’ve been working together with educators, journalists, funders, student leaders, and other tech leaders, to develop an actionable framework for ramping up the media literacy skills necessary for civic engagement across the nation’s youth.
22×20 first kicked off in September, at a summit at the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation at Columbia University in New York City. Together, more than 60 of us from across the United States gathered together to strategize against some of our key milestones. Our collective ideas encompassed curriculum, distribution of curriculum, policy and advocacy, communications, professional development, and other out-of-the-box thinking. Now, a few months later, we continue to map out our actionable three-year plan via smaller working groups, conference calls, and late-night Slack chats.
While our efforts for 22×20 are still in its early stages, we’re hopeful that the movement will spark real change around youth media literacy and civic engagement. The ability to discern and more importantly, challenge, misinformation is key to participating in the democratic process. We need to equip young people with the skills to parse fact from fiction so they can decide for themselves what they believe is ultimately right. And we also need to make sure they know that their vote has the power to make a difference.
This week, 22×20 is excited to kick off one of our very first initiatives, in honor of Media Literacy Week. In collaboration with #sschat, an open group of dedicated network of educators and enthusiasts who aim to improve their collective teaching of social studies, we’re engaging educators across the country on the topic of youth, media, and the election on Twitter. We invite all who are interested to participate in the conversation.
Jennifer Bassett (@Jabers) is Outbrain’s Managing Editor. She has 10+ years of experience in the content strategy and editorial space. She began her career as a book editor and has consulted for top agencies, nonprofits, and media companies including Memorial Sloan Kettering, Havas Worldwide New York, and Interbrand. In her personal time, she co-founded the acclaimed newsletter Red for the Blue and when she’s not talking content, she’s playing music with her band The Missing Footage. You can read more of her writing on Outbrain.com and jennifer-bassett.com.