English summary

Welcome to newsliteracy.nl, a website by Fifi Schwarz.
Currently, this site features articles in Dutch only.
Translations and new English publications are on the way.
For now, you can read the summary of my study on News Literacy in the Netherlands below. For more information, contact me at fifi@dedingendebaas.nl

News literacy: the link between journalists and news users –
Summary

News media and journalists to a very large extent influence what we as citizens know, think and even feel about the world we live in. They inform us, they engage us, and they activate us. They confront us with opinions that are dissimilar to our own and they challenge us to reconsider our pre-conceived ideas and to enter dialogue not only with people we know and feel comfortable with, but also with people we do not know and might be afraid of. News media and journalists, to paraphrase Harvard sociologist Cass R. Sunstein, are society’s social glue.

However, as a result of rapid changes in the media landscape, the relationship between journalists and news consumers is changing equally rapidly. Whilst we live in an information overload age, the role of journalists seems to marginalize as citizens start using new technologies to participate in exchanging information themselves. There are two challenges here. The first is that citizens themselves need to know how to effectively use the news to their benefit: they need to become news literate. In this publication, news literacy has been defined as: actively, critically and consciously using and evaluating news content and the process of news production while reflecting upon one’s own role as a news user. In this definition, news users are not seen as mere news consumers, but can be active participants in the news process as well. Equally, journalists are considered both news makers and news users.
Additional to criteria often used for media literacy, specific news literacy criteria are language skills (needed to interpret texts, be they printed, spoken or on screen) and the acknowledgement of the pluriform character of news in democratic societies.

The second challenge is for journalists to remain trusted and respected sources. This requires that they be news literate as well. As the study shows, they can do so by taking three measures throughout their work. First is that they make clear to their audiences the relevance of the information they present. One way of doing so is by relating the news to the daily lives of the news users. Another is to be accountable for their work, and even to be proactively transparent about how and why they have chosen specific sources or angles for their news items. Third, journalists should seek opportunities to engage with news users more often. Not only in terms of asking a response to their own work, but also in actively involving news users in the process of news production – for instance in delivering news facts.

News literacy is not a singular point in time, a project that can be checked. It is a mentality set that needs to be constantly activated. When both news consumers and journalists are news literate, they have a strong foundation to build a meaningful, future proof relationship.

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