Julie Smith Partners with KMOX for Media Literacy Project

Before the public had Internet access and before 24-hour news stations were created, it was not unusual for neighbors to have discussions about their communities, using information supplied by their local newspaper or local broadcast newscasters. The neighbors did not necessarily agree on whether something was a problem, but they often agreed on the same set of facts.

Today, those neighbors may not even agree on the facts and may even disagree on whether an issue is real at all. That’s because one neighbor may receive their primary source of information from one online source with a specific bias, while the other receives it from another source with a completely different bias. And both neighbors are probably being lied to.

Julie SmithJulie Smith, who teaches media literacy at Webster University’s School of Communications, has partnered with radio station KMOX to try and address this problem. Together, they have launched the KMOX Media Literacy Project, which includes twice-weekly “Media Minutes” where Smith quickly discusses topics such as how to tell if a photo is a fake or how to check if a Twitter post is real, and a companion podcast discussion, called “What the Media?”

“Some people are making a lot of money by selling misinformation and packaging it as the truth, and they are very good at it,” Smith said. “For those who are willing to do a little homework on their own, the tools are out there that will help people navigate the confusing media landscape, figure out what’s probably real and what’s fake, and have a better understanding of why some stories are covered and others are not.”

A recent Gallup poll found that nearly two-thirds of U.S. citizens do not trust the media, and a similar percentage also believe that Social Media has had a negative impact on the country. There are now measurable disparities among demographic groups because of the overwhelming amount of misinformation being shared both online and through broadcast networks. For example, more than half of Republicans believe that Donald Trump won the last presidential election, and nearly one-fifth of U.S. citizens say they will never get a Covid-19 vaccine.

"The goal of our Media Literacy focus in 2021 is to help consumers enjoy, understand and be engaged in the media content KMOX and others provide,” said Beth Coghlan, the news brand manager at KMOX and producer of the segments. “In the last few years, there's been a lot of feedback into the newsroom about what is covered and why. This is part of our effort to pull back the curtain and be transparent about our efforts to achieve journalistic standards for our listeners and allow for open dialogue about what listeners want from legacy media."

Planned topics that will be covered in the coming months include:

  • What is Infosnacking?
  • Why are memes such an effective form of communication?
  • How do conspiracy theories thrive online?
  • Who is fact-checking the fact checkers?
  • How to spot a bot
  • What's a deep fake?
  • The impact of algorithms

Smith has a national reputation as a media literacy expert. She has been interviewed by hundreds of media outlets, including USA Today and the Washington Post and made headlines last summer when she quickly debunked a news story about the identity of a suspect in a mass shooting in Arizona. Smith walked the reporter through the steps needed to show that a photo of the alleged shooter was a photo that had been used in previous news stories.

Smith also is the author of the book "Master the Media: How Teaching Media Literacy Can Save Our Plugged-In World,” and “Wake ‘Em Up! Super-charge your student engagement.”

The “Media Minute” spots will air on KMOX Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 7:52 a.m. Central during Total Information AM with Debbie Monterrey and Tom Ackerman. The “What the Media?” podcasts can be found on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

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