New class teaches digital literacy tools to combat information disorder

A new Grady College course is equipping students with skills needed to discern between truth and misinformation when consuming digital media.

“Media Savvy: Becoming Digitally Literate” is an online summer class taught by Amanda Bright, academic professional in journalism.

“Current events are creating this course,” Bright said. “Although misinformation is hardly new, the current trends with media manipulation are sophisticated, which means we must become more media savvy.”

The course is a real-time case study as much of the discussion revolves around the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 elections and nationwide protests about race and inequality.

“We are in a moment where this misinformation conversation is not just useful but essential,” Bright said.

Amanda Bright teaches the course. She was the 2019 journalism teacher of the year.

The first words of the course syllabus are: “Clickbait. Deepfakes. Disinformation, Bias, Hoaxes. Fake News.,” giving the 25 enrolled students an immediate glimpse at the subjects examined in the class.

Bright refers to digital literacy as the tools needed to distinguish truth amid information disorder.

“If people do not have correct information, they cannot make correct decisions,” said Bright.

Students are becoming familiar with resources designed to help journalists earn trust such as First Draft and Trusting News, both organizations with prior partnerships with Grady College. The course introduces terminology, context, tools and techniques to develop media literacy and understand the role of journalism in society.

“Hopefully by the end of this class, I hope you can feel like you can have constructive conversations with the people in your life that you may feel like are off-base on this topic,” Bright tells her students in the class’ introductory video.

Many Grady College alumni volunteered their knowledge and time to help students in the class. Meredith Anderson (ABJ ’01) from WRDW, Ivan Aronin (ABJ ’86) from Main Strett News, Chase Cain (ABJ ’05) from NBCLX, Lisa Fu (AB ’17) from FundFire, Daniel Funke (ABJ ’17) from PolitiFact, Randi Hildreth (ABJ ’12) from WBRC, Linda Hurtado (ABJ ’89) from WTVT, Robert Hydrick (ABJ ’84) from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety  Stephanie Gallman Jordan (ABJ ’02) from CNN, Joshua Ninke (ABJ ’11) from KBTX, Maddie Ray (AB ’19) from WXIA, Casey Rose (AB ’09) from WHAS, Kelsey Russo (ABJ ’19) from The Athletic, Sheeka Sanahori (ABJ ’06) from Lonely Planet, Sydney Shadrix (MA ’19) from KLTV all offered to be interviewed by students. Each student is paired with a professional to have a wide-ranging conversation about how journalists fact-check and build trust with audiences.

After being equipped with digital literacy skills, students are charged with analyzing a digital media content for their final project. They are asked to explain their findings, recommend steps to improve understanding for the audience and predict what should happen next in digital media verification.

Trusting News project expands research and training through Grady College partnership

Trusting News, a project intended to empower journalists to earn consumers’ trust, is adding research and training support from a partnership with Grady College.

The Trusting News project, which was founded at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, has worked with more than 50 news outlets since 2016 to find out what news consumers trust and to test strategies intended to build trust.

“Trust is the single most important issue facing journalism today—we must work in concert to help our colleagues in the industry or risk losing our institution entirely to the forces of disinformation and cynical manipulation of the news,” said Charles Davis, dean of Grady College.

Davis said he and the College “wanted to help and be recognized as a member of what I hope becomes a movement.”

Engagement strategist Joy Mayer, who founded the project, is preparing to share the latest round of findings this fall at and to train more newsrooms in how to earn trust with the help of the Grady College.

Faculty members will recruit newsrooms in the Southeast to participate and train them on how to implement Trusting News strategies, said Davis. The college will also provide researchers and resources with the goal of producing at least one research study a year.

“Their research is so needed as we try to figure out what the factors are that lead to trust and as we try to understand how news consumers respond to different types of news and different messages,” Mayer said. “The research is crucial, so that we can be able to say with more authority what works and what should be repeated.”

“I’m thrilled that our journalism faculty will be part of Trusting News,” adds Janice Hume, Carolyn McKenzie and Don E. Carter Chair for Excellence in Journalism and head of the journalism department at Grady. “We have faculty research expertise in credibility assessment, and we have a strong relationship with news organizations in Georgia that could benefit from this critically important project.”

The Trusting News Project is also supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Democracy Fund.