Last Sunday morning on Reliable Sources, CNN’s Brian Stelter asked his considerable audience to be on guard for one of this election cycle’s most ugly features: fake news sites. He accurately them called “a plague” across the internet. He proposed a new rule for social-media users: “Triple check before you share,” and he offered some useful tips on how to do that.
I’m not a fan of CNN’s generally atrocious political coverage in the past 18 months, to put it mildly. But I am a big fan of Stelter’s work; he’s currently the beacon of light at the news channel. His don’t-fall-for-fake-news advice, part of a series of commentaries he’s been delivering, is a key reason why.
In pieces like the one that ran on Sunday, Stelter has done what the traditional media have largely failed to do: Leading the way in bringing media-literacy skills to the wider public. Given the size of his audience, on TV and online, it is probably no exaggeration to call him, as I did the other day, “America’s most influential teacher of media literacy in the digital age.”
Had American journalists at every level made media literacy a core part of their mission for the past 50 years or so, I’m convinced there would have been (at least) two laudable results. First, the nation would have been better prepared to handle the Digital Age’s flood of information, so much of which is false or deceptive. Second, media organizations—at least the ones doing their jobs right—would have fostered much more trust in their own work, which would have helped sustain them through the economic upheaval they're now enduring.