The consequences of media illiteracy

To the editor:

 

Have you ever posted an article to Facebook – just the headline and the link? And then up pops a comment asking a question that is clearly answered in the article? It happens all the time. People read and react to headlines but don’t read the text that follows.

Newspaper readership, according to a recent study by Pew, is down 50 percent over the past decade. Daily readership is down by almost 8 percent in the last year. While readership online is up just 8 percent for most newspapers.

Imagine reading just the headlines in newspapers, and not reading the articles. That is where we are today. Blame it on the internet, blame it on a declining investment in public education – but here are some of the consequences:

 • A 2012 ACTA survey found that less than 20 percent of U.S. college graduates knew what the Emancipation Proclamation did.

 • A 2015 survey revealed that more than 30 percent of Americans could not say when the Civil War took place. And many had no idea why it took place.

Recently, National Public Radio tweeted all of the Declaration of Independence, 140 characters at a time. This is a longstanding tradition. But many saw it as a political attack on the president, not recognizing the famous text.

Even our president seems to think Frederick Douglass is alive and well and that Andrew Jackson somehow lived to see the Civil War.

Our knowledge of politics, geography and history is, in a word, alarming.

We read the headlines, we don’t read the rest, and so we live in a world of click candy, celeb gossip and a lack of understanding of how we got to be where we are – and where we are going.

But it is not too late. If we invest in elections, invest in journalism, teach kids how to be smart consumers of media and start asking questions, we might be able turn that corner. All we need to do is read beyond the headlines.

Jayme H. Simões, President

Louis Karno & Company

Communications, Concord

Categories: Letters to the Editor

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