News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

“Building news literacy and trust in the media is critical to helping the public discern what to believe, share and act on.”

In 2017, all roads will still lead back to “Hamilton.”

The influence of the hit Broadway production has gone far beyond the stage, impacting not only how we tell stories but bringing into focus whose stories we tell and why those stories matter.

This was evident in November, when the show’s cast addressed Vice President-Elect Mike Pence during a performance and was swiftly rebuked by President-Elect Donald Trump, who asked for an apology on Twitter.

Trump’s reaction led to ensuing media conversations about free speech, falsehoods, and diversity across multiple platforms — highlighting three trends we’re going to see more of in 2017.

Building news literacy: Not all information is created equal

With the surge of fake news camouflaging itself as real news — and the implications of it on modern journalism — we will see a steady stream of concerted efforts to strengthen fact-checking, verification, and news literacy in 2017.

Already, there are regular headlines debunking hoaxes and instructing readers on how to spot fake news. You can expect this to continue next year as rigorously disproving falsehoods and defending truth become an even bigger priority.

Look for heightened interest in resources like New York’s Center of News Literacy at Stony Brook University as news organizations, tech companies, and universities put a greater focus on educating their audiences on what’s trustworthy and fair. Also watch for more investment dollars in verification and fact-checking work such as Poynter’s creation of a chair in journalism ethics.

Building news literacy and trust in the media is critical to helping the public discern what to believe, share and act on. It is vital to our profession and democracy as we know it.

Understanding the role of unconscious bias in news

In 2017, there will be a closer look at unconscious bias in the reporting and distribution of information. Media and tech companies will create ways to test assumptions, expose preconceptions and challenge discriminatory data. This Facebook Messenger bot to help people identify their biases is just one example.

The work by Tonya Mosley, a journalism fellow at Stanford University, is another shining instance demonstrating how unconscious bias “can skew our coverage and blind us to important stories, voices and angles.” Based on her research, Mosley created a workshop for journalists to show how unconscious bias appears in their work. More efforts such as hers will help us and our newsrooms deepen our coverage on race, identity, and inequality as we understand our own biases.

Creating new storytelling forms

“Wait for it.”

The “Hamilton” effect on creativity will also continue in 2017. The award-winning musical that tells the history of American founding father Alexander Hamilton has inspired culture in numerous ways, from the creation of a mixtape to the shaping of classroom lessons.

Be on the lookout for more “Hamilton”-inspired storytelling in journalism — like That’s a Rap, a University of Florida student podcast that summarizes the news through hip hop and rap music, or this Great Big Story video on Benjamin Franklin’s life as a fireman that explains the past and gives it new life.

Covering history creatively using video, podcasts, interactives, live events, and social media will help connect the dots to current events, put social issues into broader context and engage audiences in fresh, compelling ways.

Mira Lowe is senior editor for features at CNN Digital.

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