As many as possible of the citizens of a democracy must be not only literate but critically literate if they are to behave as full citizens. (Hoggart, 2004: 189)
The Centre for Excellence in Media Practice at Bournemouth University (CEMP) have published recommendations from research into the role of Media Studies in the resilience of young people to fake news. The project, funded by the United States Embassy in London, consisted of a review of existing work in this area, interviews and multi-stakeholder workshops, bringing together and capturing dialogue between media educators, journalists, students and information professionals, to address the educational response to ‘fake news’ and disinformation.
25 interviews with media educators and journalists were combined with participative workshops in Hong Kong, London and Moscow, with a total sample of just under 90 stakeholders.
See the project site for the field review, workshop videos, presentations, participant blog, report, recommendations and the ‘top ten’ toolkit of media literacy resources selected by the stakeholders for dealing with fake news.
The research generated dialogue on four issues: (1) clarifying the problem (fake news and ‘information disorder’) from the experiences of the stakeholders; (2) identifying any competing ideas around the concept of trust in media and information; (3) evaluating a range of media literacy resources already in the world for tackling fake news and (4) agreeing on what media education can realistically do to equip young citizens with critical resilience.
The research identified a ‘top ten’ of media literacy resources for dealing with information disorder and the data generated from the field review, interviews and workshops, taken together, lead us to the following recommendations:
From the findings of the project, we make the argument that Media Studies, if adopted as a mandatory subject in schools would better equip young citizens with resilience to fake news than reactive resources (such as fact-checking and verification tools) and small-scale projects which focus primarily on skills and competences rather than critical thinking. We describe the latter as important and valuable for ‘giving a fish’, whereas Media Studies is more a case of ‘teaching to fish’. To use an alternative analogy, the former boosts the immune system, the latter treat the infection (see Rushkoff, 2018).
Both are needed, but ‘teaching to fish’ is the key recommendation, and, in the UK schools’ context, making Media Studies a mandatory subject would be the obvious starting point.
A book on this subject, Fake News vs Media Studies: Travels in a False Binary, is due to be published by the end of the year, one of four books published by the research team.
About the Author
Julian McDougall is Professor in Media and Education, Head of the Centre for Excellence in Media Practice and Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He edits Media Practice and Education, runs the Professional Doctorate (Ed D) in Creative and Media Education at Bournemouth University and convenes the annual International Media Education Summit. He is external examiner for BA and Ed D programmes and a senior examiner for Media Studies A Level in the UK and is a grant reviewer for several international panels including the European Union. In the field of media education, he is the author of a range of over 100 books, articles, chapters and research reports and has provided numerous research projects for external funders, charities and non-profit organisations including the European Union, Arts and Humanities Research Council, Samsung, the United Kingdom Literacy Association and the US Embassy. He has given keynote speeches and joined invited expert panels on media education and media literacy in 17 countries.