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Getting educated on news literacy

Published: Friday, Nov. 1, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Hang on a second while I switch hats. I want to talk about my job for a minute. Since the kids moved out, the wife moved out and the cat escaped, it’s about all that’s left.

I recently completed a booklet about news literacy, which is teaching people to be better consumers of news. There is so much baloney sauce out there parading as news that it can be difficult to tell what’s real and what’s made up.

“Well, you’re a fine one to talk,” you may say. “Most of everything you write is made up.”

That may be true. I have, on occasion, been known to embellish a story. Some stories just need the extra help. A fair amount of my fibbing, though, is unintentional. My memory isn’t as good as it used to be, and it was never too good to begin with. So, sometimes, I think I remember something and it turns out later that my brain was just spackling in the blanks.

But you know when you see my column with the column heading on it that you’re probably going to get fed a big, ol’ heaping spoonful of baloney sauce.

The problem is, there are marketing factories churning out fresh baloney sauce just as fast as we can consume it. With Twitter and Facebook and Reddit and other social networking sites, the masses are fed the sauce faster than ever before. The few checks and balances out there tend to get drowned in the sauce. I even read in the Peoria newspaper once where a presidential candidate was telling people to trust information they get from their friends on social media over traditional news media.

What we need is a news umpire who can call some strikes, or at least a news coach that can arm people with the tools they need to make better judgments about the veracity of their news. Somebody needs to wave a flag when a foul is committed.

Cue the music. Here I am. I even went to college in New York to study news literacy – for two whole weeks. Couple that with nearly 30 years of experience in the news industry. The result is a booklet that I wrote.

The booklet is just the beginning for us as we plan to add more news literacy resources. I don’t think these efforts will result in any less baloney sauce being manufactured and consumed, but maybe they will be like condiments that assist in digesting the news.

• David Porter can be reached at ramblinman@ramblinman.us.

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