Online news is one of the hardest things to verify. Sometimes early reports that turn out not to be true still circulate on the Internet, and people may spread false reports for commercial or malicious reasons, or even just for “fun.”
MediaSmarts is partnering with Facebook Canada to help Canadians become better informed readers in the digital age. False online content isn’t a new problem, and it’s not unique to Facebook, but it is up to all of us to fight it. Many of us lack the search, authentication and critical thinking skills we need to find accurate information online and to recognize false or misleading content. That’s why MediaSmarts has partnered with Facebook to help build the authentication skills of all Canadians.
Did you know that almost a quarter of adults have shared a false news story, and that we’re least likely to fact-check news and other things that come to us through people we know and trust on social networks (even though for many people these are their most common sources of news)?
Along with images of natural disasters and violence, one all-too-common news item that can be distressing to kids is reports of hate crimes. Seeing or hearing about hate-motivated assaults and vandalism of homes, cemeteries and places of worship in media, can lead to fear and anxiety in young people, especially if they belong to a vulnerable group. In many cases, the effect will be worse because news isn’t the only place Canadian kids see hate and racism: almost half see hateful content online at least once a month, and one in six sees it every day.
In ancient times the Olympics were a time when all nations – all Greek nations, anyway – would put away their differences and compete in almost every human activity, from poetry to the ferocious no-rules wrestling event called pankration. Being the very best that humans could be was seen as the best way to honour the gods of Olympus. Though we’ve dropped the poetry and the blood sports, people watching the swimming or volleyball events might wonder if we’re on the way to bringing back the ancient tradition of competing in the nude. Revealing outfits – like those designed by Lululemon for the Canadian beach volleyball team – may be practical for those events, but they also shine a light on how dressing for sports can make us feel about ourselves. After all, it’s hard to feel good about your own body when you’ve just spent an hour watching the most perfect physiques in the world nearly naked.
Joe McGinniss’ book The Selling of the President had a shocking title for 1968, suggesting as it did that in the television age the presidency had become nothing more than another product to be packaged and sold. MediaSmarts’ resource, Watching the Elections (a lesson for Grades 8-12), shines a light on how the different aspects of an election – from the debates to political ads to the candidates themselves – are actually media products.
Making Your Voice Heard: A Media Toolkit for Youth is designed to help young people understand how the news industry works, why youth stereotyping happens and how they can access media to get positive youth voices and stories heard.
In the same way that Canadian news reporting does not reflect Canada’s multiculturalism, racial diversity ‘behind the scenes’ of news media is similarly disproportionate. In 2006, fewer than 6 per cent of CBC employees were visible minorities.  A 2000 study from the University of Laval suggests that more than 97 per cent of Canadian journalists are White.