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Sign up for this whipsmart newsletter to cleanse your fake-news-tainted soul

We asked Aubrey Nagle to tell us the story behind her project to make people more media-literate.

Aubrey Nagle wants to help you read the news. (Photo by Flickr user Daniel Blume, used under a Creative Commons license)
This is a guest post by Aubrey Nagle.
As a news nerd and journalist-turned-communications manager, I’ve found the past few months of news, well, horrifying.

It’s not the content, per se, of recent news that’s keeping me up at night, but rather how our news ecology is underserving the public. While there are plenty of phenomenal journalists working today, much of what we refer to as “the media” is indeed filled with clickbait, repackaged press releases and distribution models that don’t understand how readers read. The “move fast and break things” mentality of tech combined with a lagging journalism industry has ushered in an age of “fake news,” where readers are constantly fed media they’re unable to digest. To top it off, the state of media literacy education means citizens are woefully unprepared for the nuanced conversations we need to have about what “fake news” even means, let alone to solve it.

In other words, it’s never been more important to encourage critical news consumption and support high-quality journalism.

So, two months ago, I launched BOOM letter, an e-newsletter that provides subscribers with mini Monday morning lessons in media literacy. My goal is to empower readers to be better citizens by responsibly consuming and sharing news, supporting the free press as a tenet of democracy and advocating for better media literacy education.

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I, of course, am not the only one with these goals in mind. Newsrooms, scholars and companies like Facebook and Google are examining their practices in hopes of reestablishing trust in the media. But, as a voracious news consumer who has also seen how the sausage gets made, I do feel like many of their proposed solutions are (to painfully mix metaphors) giving their audiences fish, instead of teaching them how to fish. Facebook’s “fake news” solution, for example, crowdsources which sources to believe, not why to believe them.

Here’s a look at what you’ll get in your inbox if you sign up for the newsletter. (And find the archives here.)

Explainers on how media is profiting off of you:

"How Media Makes Money"

(Infographic by Aubrey Nagle)

Guides on how to read the news:

"How to read an article"

(Infographic by Aubrey Nagle)

Primers on the unforeseen consequences of language:

"Marked and unmarked words"

(Infographic by Aubrey Nagle)

A glossary of media terms you should know:

"Catchphrase of the week: Affiliate link"

(Infographic by Aubrey Nagle)

As I was creating BOOM letter, friends and family voiced their concerns about the deluge of content they face each day without knowing whom to trust. Others said they feel ill-used by clickbait machines and social media algorithms, so they no longer trust “the media.”

To me, the inability to differentiate between good and bad journalism, or between media companies and journalists, clearly illustrates two points. The first: poor media literacy education combined with phone-glued-to-hand media saturation makes readers undervalue and misunderstand the role of journalists. The second is that this first point has created a huge disconnect between journalists and those they serve, an effect exacerbated in underserved communities lacking local news coverage.

Which is why each issue of BOOM letter uses examples straight from the week’s headlines to teach foundational concepts of media literacy (with a dash of critical theory) and provides insight into, and criticism of, how journalists create their work. Perhaps most importantly, BOOM letter is an e-newsletter because accessibility and generational neutrality are paramount. (As I heard loud and clear from my network, email’s easy, nearly everyone has it.)

Sure, it’s a small step. But I hope to expand BOOM letter soon, perhaps hosting events to encourage media transparency or workshops on critically reading our news feeds. In the meantime, I hope you’ll join me in becoming better citizens by taking steps of your own toward media literacy.

Find us on social media @helloboomletter.

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