Did the Pilgrims Start Fake News?

Every year, when I reflect on what I’m thankful for, our clients and colleagues rank at the top of the list. But this year, I have a three-way tie. This year, more than ever, I am also thankful for a free press.

While it’s my job to stay abreast of headlines and trends, and right now the news du jour is the White House pulling the press credentials of CNN’s Jim Acosta, this story is more than trend watching for me.

I appreciate and respect the First Amendment which calls for, among other freedoms, a free press. I believe the press is necessary to a free society and I am concerned, “that view is no longer shared by many Americans,” as stated in a Boston Globe editorial earlier this year.  Concerned, but not surprised.

We have a literacy problem – media literacy that is. In this digital age, it is difficult to parse fake news from fact, propaganda from truth, and alternative facts from reality. In fact, 50% of people don’t know what an op-ed is and 57% don’t understand the concept of native advertising. I believe those of us in the communications industry have a responsibility to help close that literacy gap.

So this Thanksgiving season, I encourage you to check out the News Literacy Project, a national education nonprofit in partnership with the PR Council, offering nonpartisan, independent programs that teach students how to know what to believe in the digital age. It’s timely. After all, even the Pilgrims used an illegal press to spread their ideas prior to embarking for America many, many years ago. – Lee Caraher