As human beings have continued to use and make improvements to their technology, many have become reliant on online media, perhaps almost as much as oxygen in the modern age. Online news, as vast and complex and polarized as it is, is here to stay, and all people, especially college students, should learn to navigate this new reality.
There seems to be no decisive answer for how students can separate the Internet trash from the treasure; however, these skills can be a product of habit. According to Erin McCoy, Librarian for Instruction and Digital Media at the Nease Library, “It’s something that comes with habit; the more you read the news, the more you get a feel for different kinds of writers and perspectives, which allow you to think more critically of what you read.”
As online media becomes more available, people will hopefully become more aware voters and consumers as a result. However, the nature of online news media could also be compared to that of a Venus fly trap; sites can lure you in with an intriguing picture or advertisement, then trap you as soon as you make the decision to click.
Users should try to avoid single-source material and gravitate more towards articles with embedded links and references throughout the content, which is designed for the reader to further their knowledge on the issue or the author in question. One publication that does an exceptional job of demonstrating this credibility is the New York Times, which members of the ENC community can now access for free.
As credible and interesting as the The New York Times is, rarely can you start reading a newspaper and immediately become hooked. The best way to train yourself to read any online publication is to find a section that intrigues you. Especially with the online version, it’s so easy to click on a tab and have instant access to hundreds of articles, past and present, on topics like world news, politics, and even food.
It’s also important to understand that certain sections of the paper are intended to appeal to certain types of readers, so before you start to bash an article for not making sense, keep in mind that the author may not be talking to you. As a rule of thumb, if it takes you more than ten seconds to figure out what the author is talking about, then you are most likely not the audience for whom the work in question was intended.
Online media is like boxing; the more punches you take, the better acclimated you are to getting hit. Therefore, readers shouldn’t be afraid to take a few hits in the face before really starting to understand what they’re reading.