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Consume media responsibly

We live in a world where we are constantly being oversaturated with media. Between Facebook, Twitter and 24/7 news outlets, we are absorbing new information every time we pick up our phones. While this system definitely has its benefits, it can also be dangerous. Social media platforms allow anyone to post anything, regardless of the information’s validity, and news outlets owned by large corporations are able to push an agenda without viewers ever noticing.

Last week, I read a blog post that left me with a lot of questions. The author’s tone was confident and passionate, which gave me a quick impression that this person knew quite a bit about what they were talking about. However, as I got further into the post, a lot of information was not lining up. To add to my skepticism, the author was anonymous, and no sources were cited throughout the post.

Although the information was not cited, it appeared to be very easy to fact check. I completed three Google searches, and all of the information I needed was under the very first link of each search. In less than 10 minutes, I was able to find trustworthy sources backed by facts in order to disprove the content of the post that I read. I was able to prove that I was correct in my suspicions and that the author of the post was very misinformed. The simplicity of the fact checking process made me concerned for others who might read the post and take everything the author had written as the truth, believing every false word of their argument and walking away with a misguided perception of the issue.

It is more important than ever to remain skeptical of the media you consume. With the amount of information we are exposed to on a daily basis, we have to question everything we read. We live in constant danger of becoming bandwagon activists, hopping onto whatever issue seems most important without ever doing our research. Instead, we should try to always be active participants in the media and stay widely and thoroughly informed.

One great way to remain accurately informed is to consume fact-based, independent journalism from sources like The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vox, The Hill, The LA Times or Politico. Rigorous, fact-based, independent journalism is expensive; the time, talent and resources it requires are immense. The publications that produce it will only survive the digital age if we are willing to pay for them. For this reason, it is so important, if you are able, to pay for fact-based, independent journalism. Many publications have student discounts; the Times is just $4 a month for students, and the Post is $5.

So, writers: cite your sources. Take an active role in making sure the content you are creating is accurate and well-supported. Be wary of anonymity. Put your name on your work if you support your ideas. Readers: ask questions. Be skeptical of facts that aren’t cited, editorialized news and anonymous authors. Fact check everything, regardless of if you agree or disagree with the argument.

As participants in the media, we must actively engage with the content we are being exposed to by being informed on a variety of issues and the stances behind them. It is our responsibility to hold writers, reporters and the media accountable for the information they are presenting.

Mackenzie Clark, a Managing Editor for the Voice, can be reached for comment at MClark19@wooster.edu.

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