Column: Readers, press, should be responsible for information literacy

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“And it was like that.” Now, who’s reading this story remembers who said that?

Obviously, the late great Walter Cronkite said that every night at the end of his news show. Fifty years ago, all Americans believed “it was like that,” as the mainstream media reported.

So what has happened over the years to diminish the truth and credibility of these words?

May I suggest that social media has destroyed the integrity of information?

Walter Cronkite won the trust of the American public because Walter Cronkite really reported, “the way it was.” We turned to him and watched him broadcast live on television the moon landing and the major events that happened in our country.

We loved him, we believed him, we trusted him because we felt like we knew him.

After watching the news at the time, we couldn’t turn to social media and find all the conspiracy stories hidden behind something called “the news.” We would just take a copy of the National applicant at the start line if we wanted to learn more about aliens and Elvis sightings.

However, we all knew that you really couldn’t believe much of what you read in these types of stories – common sense told us that Elvis Presley was not really circling the moon in a Russian space capsule. But, “it was like that” is now, “it is like that.”

So what can we do to counter media misinformation? To be brutally honest, how about starting with common sense. How about defining “news” vs. “opinion pieces”? What is truth and what is written and said for entertainment?

Remember that most people 30-50 years ago knew not to believe stories of Elvis being spotted on Mars.

Integrity in the media still exists, but in my humble opinion, it comes down to really knowing where to look to find it. Remember that all TV shows are rating based and all social media, internet, web pages etc. are based on clicks or visits. The goal of networks and web pages is to get as many people as possible to see or hear their content, so it doesn’t matter if it’s the truth.

The more people watch the channel or view the web page, the more money owners can collect for paid ads.

So what is the solution? Well, I think it’s pretty simple and doesn’t need algorithms or supercomputers to figure it out.

If I want to know the truth about something, you go to the source. If you can’t go to the source, you find someone you believe is reliable, honest, and has nothing to gain or lose by telling or sharing the truth. There, my friends, you will find: “It was like that.

Otherwise, you can linger with the aliens and “Elvis Is Alive” followers because I guess that’s how it is.

But have faith, because, as Agent Mulder says, “the truth is out there.” You just need to find it.

Dan Ault is Plover’s Chief of Police and Acting Administrator of Plover Village. He can be reached at 715-345-5250.


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