26th October 2022
Are you news savvy? Top tips for improving your media literacy

In honour of UNESCO Global Media and Information Literacy Week (24-31 October 2022), Impress explains what media literacy is, how it can benefit the public and news publishers and how to improve your own media literacy.

News fulfils important and diverse roles in society, from communicating matters of public importance and historic events, to providing light-hearted entertainment.

Having access to quality news and engaging with journalism critically allows you to make the most of all the news that is available today. When public news literacy meets quality standards-based journalism, society benefits hugely.

Media literacy is a diverse umbrella that covers multiple topics. Navigating our way confidently and safely through today’s swathes of multimedia information can be incredibly challenging. To help you understand where to start and how to improve your news and media literacy, Impress has broken the subject down into five key areas.

Whether you’re looking to improve your own media literacy or looking to implement a media literacy project or programme to teach others, considering these areas will contribute to strong and well-rounded media literacy skills and knowledge.

1    Thinking about the ‘behind the scenes’ of news

Various social, political, and economic factors contribute to the media and news that we come across every day. It’s important to think critically about the media landscape and to identify and consider the influence of different media types (from news to opinion, conflict reporting to sports coverage, or video content to the written word), as well as production processes, ownership structures, social and political values, editorial standards, and relevant legal and regulatory requirements on the content you consume.

Each of these factors holds some degree of influence over the stories that you interact with every day and how they are written by journalists. It’s important to consider this context to really evaluate the value of what you are reading.

2    Considering ethical standards and the media

With the wealth of news sources and information that are out there it’s sometimes difficult to know what ‘good’ journalism looks like. To identify important components of quality journalism, it can be helpful to draw on industry benchmarks like the Impress Standards Code, which cover a range of ethical principles from accuracy to non-discrimination, respect for vulnerable groups, various public interest considerations, and more.

3    Improving your knowledge of your media rights

It can be helpful to have an understanding of your media rights and news publishers’ legal responsibilities when engaging with news content, to know when you can complain and in extreme cases, to know when you have grounds for a legal case.

Organisations such as Impress can help you to better understand your rights in respect of the media and can provide general advice concerning issues around defamation, privacy and data protection breaches, hate speech and copyright laws, and how to seek legal redress. Informed readers help to protect others from potential media harms and allow quality, standards-based journalism to flourish.

4    Taking into consideration the impact of online publishing

The online media landscape is hugely dynamic. Complex algorithms that lack transparency decide what news content is served to you on your social feeds; digital news publishers sometimes resort to clickbait and sensational headlines to attract page views to their journalism in an over-saturated information market.

Rather than taking the news that appears in your feeds and search results at face value, it’s important to consider how the nature of online publishing and platforms shapes the type of journalism you are seeing and can affect the quality of the information you might come across online.

By combining the above factors and thinking critically about the news you are engaging with, you’ll be more confident navigating the online info-sphere knowing the key areas to consider when separating good, quality content from news content that potentially contains damaging mis or dis-information.