Conspiracy theories, like the world being flat or the Moon landings faked, have proven notoriously difficult to stomp out. Add a partisan twist to the issue, and the challenge becomes even harder. Even near the end of his second term, barely a quarter of Republicans were willing to state that President Obama was born in the US.
If we’re seeking to have an informed electorate, then this poses a bit of a problem. But a recent study suggests a very simple solution helps limit the appeal of conspiracy theories: news media literacy. This isn’t knowledge of the news, per se, but knowledge of the companies and processes that help create the news. While the study doesn’t identify how the two are connected, its authors suggest that an understanding of the media landscape helps foster a healthy skepticism.
News media literacy is the catch-all term for understanding how bias, unconscious or otherwise, influences the creation and consumption of news. This includes an awareness of the priorities of news organizations as businesses and the influence that ownership can have on the slant of news articles. But it also comes down to issues like recognizing that we bring our own biases in to the news we consume, allowing two people to come away from the same article with very different information.