Media Literacy Week starts Monday. Follow @MediaWise on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for resources to make sure you go to the polls with the facts Nov. 8. Check out the MediaWise Media Literacy Week schedule at the bottom of this article.
Carl Azuz isn’t dead. That’s a fact.
Despite some tweets about the beloved former CNN 10 host’s mortal status, Azuz is alive and focused on fighting misinformation ahead of the midterm elections. As one of two new MediaWise ambassadors, he’ll tap into his passion for truth and helping teenagers finding reliable information, to amplify the work done by the Teen Fact-Checking Network and PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs.
“I hope to use this ambassadorship to help students to identify fake news and to gather multiple perspectives on controversies because that leads to greater understanding,” said Azuz.
While the veteran Azuz will focus on reaching middle and high schoolers through MediaWise’s digital media literacy resources, TikTok influencer Hasley Pitman — of the Pitman sisters — will promote the work of the MediaWise Campus Correspondents. This diverse group of college students delivers fact-checking training sessions to college classrooms across the country.
“It is super important you take the time to research, become informed and form your own opinion to place your vote,” Pitman said. “Voting is such a crucial part of our democracy and the younger generations are paving the way for our country’s future!”
With the midterm elections looming, Azuz and Pitman are kicking off their MediaWise ambassadorships to bring you pro tips for navigating the misinformation you will see as the election approaches.
Tip #1: Check their bio
It’s a simple but extremely effective tip: Check out the bio behind that viral TikTok video. A quick swipe will tell you whether the user who shared a video, pic or post is actually a cryptocurrency trader providing COVID-19 vaccine “news.” Or a spiritual medium giving out therapy advice for anxious students.
“When you see something suspicious online, ask yourself, ‘Where is this information coming from?’,” Pitman said. ‘Is there evidence to support this information,’ and, ‘Is this person an expert?’ ”
Put the user’s name into a search engine — surrounded by quotes — along with a few keywords about the topic of their videos.
RELATED TRAINING: Enroll in MediaWise’s free 7-day text message course to start receiving daily lessons on key topics proven to help people quickly discover reliable information and trustworthy sources across the internet.
Tip #2: Be wary of screenshots — find the original source if it exists
“There have been social media posts that are actually ‘faked’ news stories from credible outlets,” said Azuz, who spent two decades at CNN with 15 years as the face of CNN 10 (formerly CNN Student News). “Search for the actual news website and find the original story to determine if a story is true.”
Screenshots or videos from one platform, like Twitter or TikTok, posted on another, like Facebook or Instagram, are a common form of misinformation. Crossposting content makes it easy to launder fake posts or hide the original source.
If you see a screenshot of a social post allegedly from the Associated Press or the BBC, check the news account’s posts to see if it actually exists. Or, plug the screenshot into Google Images to see if any fact-checkers have debunked the viral post.
RELATED: Navigate digital information with best-selling author and MediaWise ambassador John Green in this Youtube series produced in partnership with Complexly.
Tip #3: Check multiple sources to debunk ‘cheap fakes’
Deepfakes are scary. But “cheap fakes” are spookier.
Cheap fakes are misleading videos that have been edited using simple software and techniques — like slowing a video down or clipping certain parts to misrepresent what a politician, celebrity or influencer is saying. (PolitiFact offers an excellent explainer here.) And you don’t need any fancy tools to avoid sharing these out-of-context videos.
“It’s so important to verify information using multiple credible news sources,” Azuz said. “We always aimed for a minimum of two different, reliable reports when covering news stories.”
But think before clicking the first thing you see in search engine results.
“If the first thing people see is from a credible outlet – think the major cable or network news organizations – it’s not necessarily a bad result,” Azuz said. However, ads or irrelevant results may seep into that list of sources, so always scan results before clicking.
RELATED TRAINING: Up your digital media literacy game in this free self-directed course from MediaWise Campus Correspondents.
Tip #4: When it comes to political polls — or any news at all — get out of your echo chamber
You’re going to see a lot of buzzy political polls coming out over the next few weeks. And depending on the news source or company behind the numbers, you may not be getting the whole story.
Candidate A may be leading in the XYZ Senate poll, while Candidate B looks like they’re pulling away in the ABC Senate poll. MediaWise partnered with Complexly last election to help you understand how to digest political polls. But the most important thing you can do when weighing this type of information is to read across news outlets, polls and platforms.
When you consume a narrow range of news and media, it’s possible to close your mind to other perspectives or fall victim to confirmation bias — which leaves you vulnerable to sharing misinformation.
“You can get out of your echo chamber by examining a variety of news sources,” Azuz said. “Your social media feed will prioritize what you’re likely to click on, but not necessarily the wide breadth of news. Different organizations will prioritize different events and often give you different perspectives on them.”
RELATED: MediaWise Campus Correspondents produce short-form fact-checking and media literacy videos to help voters learn how to find reliable information about the election.
Tip #5: Keep your emotions in check, and check on loved ones
You are most vulnerable to sharing misinformation when you’re upset or angry. Disinformers who want to influence how you vote or spend money know this — and they will be pushing inflammatory videos, posts and pics leading up to the midterm elections.
Another simple tip to avoid interacting with misinformation: Stop and breathe. If you see a video that freaks you out, close TikTok or Instagram and text a friend. The infinite scroll of social media feeds has turned us into passive Internet users.
Stay active. And think before engaging with anything you see. Now is the perfect time to take the lessons you’ve picked up from MediaWise and help your community fight misinformation.
“If you spot a friend or family member sharing misinformation, reach out and discuss the misinformation with them in a private, friendly manner,” Pitman said. “They may have no idea about the misinformation and you want to be helpful — not harmful to their learning experience. Consider sharing some trustworthy sources you’ve found on the topic that may be of interest to them!”
Voters need access to reliable and accurate information ahead of the midterm elections. MediaWise’s digital media literacy programs are designed to empower voters of all ages and backgrounds with skills and techniques to outsmart online falsehoods, find factual information and sort fact from fiction online.
“It is very easy to be influenced by what you scroll through online but there is no guarantee that what you see online is true,” Pitman said. “It is super important you take the time to research, become informed and form your own opinion before you place your vote.”
Media Literacy Week — a celebration dedicated to “amplifying the importance of media literacy education across the United States.” starts Monday, Oct. 24. MediaWise is partnering with the Rainbow Push Coalition to kick off the celebration on Monday during a public town hall event designed to empower voters with digital media literacy skills ahead of the midterm elections.
Later in the week, MediaWise and AARP will be welcoming some of our Florida neighbors to the Poynter Institute for an interactive, in-person event designed to help people 50 years and older prepare for the polls. You can register to attend the livestream training session here. MediaWise also will be hosting an exciting online Twitter Spaces conversation with special guests. Follow MediaWise’s Twitter account and stay tuned for more details.