Media Literacy Is More Important Than Ever

Here's what to look out for when following the news coming out of Israel and Gaza.

Every time you open your phone or get a news alert on your laptop, do you feel like you’re going absolutely insane? Unfortunately, we at Hey Alma are right there with you.

As if the sheer volume of information and actual horror coming out of the ongoing crisis in Israel and Gaza wasn’t enough to process on its own, we’ve found ourselves alarmed by the amount of misinformation that is being shared (both intentionally and innocently) and how challenging it is to parse what is actually happening. One reader told us, “I don’t know who or what to believe anymore,” and we get it.

Media literacy (the ability to critically analyze stories presented in the mass media and to determine their accuracy or credibility) is an ongoing skill that is hard to hone at the best of times, and despite literally working in the media industry, even we are struggling. Not understanding what is true and what isn’t, who we can trust and who we shouldn’t, takes a mental and emotional toll, but more importantly — it can impact the way we behave and the choices we make.

We’ve talked as a staff about how to best stay informed while wading through the massive amount of conflicting reports and straight-up misinformation that’s currently online — and as always, we want to talk to you and hear from you, too.

Earlier today, we posted some questions on the Hey Alma Instagram page to get a sense of how you, our well-informed and engaged readers, are handling the news and social media right now. In sharing your responses now, we hope to remind you — and ourselves — that we’re all doing our best to understand the Israel-Hamas war and it’s devastating human toll as events unfold in real-time. Moreover, it’s perfectly OK to acknowledge when you don’t know if something you see online is the truth or not. But, through these thoughts and tips, hopefully you’ll be able to feel a bit more confident in parsing the news.

Here’s what the Hey Alma readers had to say:

What do you look for in a reliable news source?

Who funds the research or news source.

Not biased. Presenting facts with no opinion and with objective information.

A willingness to admit when they were wrong.

Independent reporting with multiple sources from all sides.

Evidence and source citation.

I don’t want to see passive language used for either side — for example, say both are killed, not “one is killed and one is dead.”

Facts consistent with historical context.

Language/rhetoric that is not incendiary or reductive.

Outlets that can independently verify facts instead of just repeating talking points from spokespeople.

Expertise in the field. I pretty much ignore any infographic or quick-response news.

A source that values accuracy over being first.

I want a news source that shares diverse stories.

How do you identify misinformation online?

Read articles from multiple sources in full, not just the headlines.

Avoid sensationalized headlines.

Remain skeptical of extreme information until it’s verified by multiple independent sources.

Social media platforms have made it nearly impossible to identify misinformation online. While this doesn’t solve the problem, it’s good to be aware of it.

Keep an eye out for sources that use words like “all” and “never.”

Beware sources that tokenize fringe groups of any religion.

Look out for emotional manipulation and search your feelings — are you reacting from a heightened place?

Be wary of random screenshots that get reposted on social media without sources or context.

Double check anything you see on social media.

Invest in your long-form education to gain deep understanding — don’t just rely on memes and video clips; read books, articles, poems, watch movies, listen to teach-ins, etc.

In what ways do you seek out differing opinions than your own?

I still follow people whose opinions and beliefs differ from mine and I read their sources.

Search the topic at large online without asking yes or no search questions.

Follow accounts from people with various lived experiences, especially lives that are different from your own.

Read verified news accounts, not Instagram meme accounts turned propaganda spreaders.

Don’t immediately unfollow someone just because you disagree with a take.

Go to exclusively Palestinian and Muslim spaces, read what they’re posting.

Go to exclusively Israeli and Jewish spaces, read what they’re posting.

Engage with differing opinions and difficult conversations with grace and compassion.

Try to see the root at the center of the reporting.

Talk to the people in your life and work through your confusion and ask hard questions together, without judgment.

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