Athens, OH – The SMART Lab’s study “Navigating Fake News: An Assessment of Students’ New Media Literacy Skills” was awarded 2nd place in the News Division of the Broadcast Education Association’s (BEA) 2019 open competition. The study is part of the SMART Lab project that seeks to understand fake news and misinformation on social media.

The qualitative study was led by Nune Grigoryan (PhD Candidate at Ohio University); and the team consisted of lab director Dr. M. Laeeq Khan, Dr. Scott Titsworth (Dean of the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University), Rebecca King (Masters student in Journalism), lab graduate assistant Bowen Gao, and Ika Idris (former Communication Phd student and lab member). Employing focus groups research method, the goals of this study were to mainly understand students’ perception of fake news and how it spreads on social media. The emphasis was on going back to the drawing board to understand what misinformation and fake news actually meant to individuals who are active on social media. This study also aimed to assess students’ media literacy skills in terms of their ability to identify misinformation and prevent it from spreading.

 The paper summarizes and discusses the existing literature on fake news and identifies how it compares to participants’ definitions of fake news. The study found that their definitions aligned with existing scholarly definitions such as false information, propaganda, and fabrication. It also found that participants considered biased news to be fake news.

Students’ were also evaluated on their ability to critically consume media and their media production and consumption skills as a part of a news media literacy framework. Results revealed that most of the participants were highly skilled in critical consumption, but less skilled in other domains. Overall, this is considered a positive outcome as it indicates that the participants who are more media savvy and younger, tend not to spread or produce fake news online.

The study recommends that media literacy education should be part of the curriculum and should begin early to give people the ability to navigate the marketplace of information.

The Award will be presented at Broadcast Education Association’s (BEA) annual convention in Las Vegas in April, 2019.

By Alayna Hutchinson