UF, the community, and media literacy

Leah Alsept




Dr. Diana Montague’s office is surrounded by literacy. Stepping inside her office one could instantly know she appreciates media and literacy through the books and movies she has stacked high on the shelves.

Montague, the Professor and Chair of Communications, is the 2019-2020 University of Findlay Wilkin Chair. The theme of her series is: “The Changing Face of Media Literacy,” which sets out to “look at some of the challenges of developing and “maintaining media literacy skills as it gets easier to spread misinformation and disinformation and harder to distinguish truth from fiction,” as taken from the Wilkin Chair series webpage.

This year’s series included a “Speak-Off,” meant to engage students to understand news through public speaking presentation competition. Holly Zachariah from the Columbus Dispatch judged the students and gave a presentation following the results.

The presentation, “Fighting Fake News: How to Improve Media Literacy Skills” on Jan. 22, takes place in the Findlay-Hancock Public Library in the Lindamood Room and is the community-geared event in the series.

Of course, there will be a difference in what students learn versus what the community learns. Montague believes that the public [non-student] audience, while familiar with newer forms of information channels, may not have the experience using them.

“TikTok and YouTube and all the other pieces—” Montague said, “I know that they’re [students] are familiar with some and that and I know how much they use that.”

The principles of the presentations though, she says, will be the same, such as, “Where did the information come from? How can you determine that? If you see something that looks false, where can you check it? Where are the fact-checking sites? If you have an image, where can you check to see if it’s a real image or if it’s been altered,” Montague said.

Montague developed the final event, “Escaping from Fake News,” with help from three librarians from the Shafer Library. Following a presentation and discussion on the challenges and tools of media literacy, the activity will challenge students to “escape” through fact-checking, image-checking, and solving puzzles relating to fake news. It will be held on Feb. 18 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Shafer Library Learning Commons.

“There’s so much out there that changes so quickly, just when you figure out how to determine whether something is real or manufactured, somebody else comes up with another way to try to deceive people,” Montague says about fake news.

She says that since everyone can be a publisher of news, “We put ourselves in danger of being duped [by fake news], whether it be cognitively, or politically, or economically,” Montague said. “If we don’t realize every piece of information, we really should work to verify.”

“If something is too good to be true or too bad to be true, we need, for our own credibility, we need to have flags that go up to be critical thinkers and to practice those media literacy skills,” she said.

For more information about the Wilkin Chair series at the University of Findlay, visit their webpage on https://www.findlay.edu/arts-humanities-social-sciences/wilkin-chair.


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