Ms. Margaret Brennan ’98 promotes the importance of media literacy

Ms.+Margaret+Brennan+%2798+believes+it+is+important+for+all+voters%2C+especially+students%2C+to+be++cautious+of+the+information+that+they+see+online.

Natalie Dosmond '21

Ms. Margaret Brennan ’98 believes it is important for all voters, especially students, to be cautious of the information that they see online.

Sacred Heart Greenwich alumna Ms. Margaret Brennan ‘98, Foreign Affairs Correspondent for Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) News and moderator of the network’s Sunday morning show “Face the Nation,” joined the Poynter Institute’s media literacy initiative, MediaWise, as an ambassador September 8.  The mission of MediaWise is to help individuals to be more critical of the information that they find online and to spot misinformation so that they can make their own decisions based on fact, not fiction. 

MediaWise is a non-profit and nonpartisan project of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a journalism school and research organization located in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Launched in 2018, MediaWise currently has three pillars on which the team and ambassadors are focusing their efforts.  These pillars are MediaWise for Gen Z, MediaWise for Seniors, and MediaWise for First-Time Voters.  These initiatives aim to help teenagers navigate digital information, help Americans over the age of 65 spot misinformation in false news stories, and help first-time voters fact-check political misinformation before casting their ballot, respectively, according to poynter.org.

Ms. Margaret Brennan ’98 joins the Poynter Institute’s media literacy initiative, MediaWise, as an ambassador.  Courtesy of poynter.org

Ms. Brennan chose to become a part of this initiative to extend the work that she has already done with “Face the Nation” to help guide college students and other first-time voters, especially ahead of the 2020 presidential election this November. 

“Every Sunday at Face the Nation we put a premium on context,” Ms. Brennan said, according to poynter.org.  “I’m thrilled I get to extend this effort with Poynter and MediaWise as an ambassador for media literacy.  This is an opportunity to engage and educate millions of college students on how to be prepared to spot misinformation and be better informed in their choices as they vote for the first time this year.”

During her visit to Sacred Heart September 23, Ms. Brennan communicated to Upper School students the importance of differentiating factual information from misinformation, and how they can go about doing so. 

“Information is power,” Ms. Brennan said.  “All of you are being inundated with information all of time from disparate sources, particularly across social media. Everyone is seeking to influence you.  Pay attention to the sourcing of the information that you are being presented with.  Does a TV station or website provide you with information, or just affirmation of your point of view?  If you’re just agreeing with everything you’re being told all the time, you’re probably not doing it right as a consumer.”

MediaWise’s three pillars, MediaWise for Gen Z, MediaWise for First-Time Voters, and MediaWise for Seniors, encourage individuals of all ages to be more critical consumers of the information that they find online.  Courtesy of poynter.org

In accordance with MediaWise’s mission, Mr. Valentine, Upper School History Teacher, highlights the importance of conducting thorough research while reading a piece of news or information, specifically from social media, in order to not get caught up in falsities.

“We have become a society of immediate information, and have forgotten about doing the legwork to become truly informed and to get all the facts,” Mr. Valentine said.  “When information is presented in soundbites or in attention grabbing headlines in order to generate clickbait, the true message and information tends to get lost.  Many social media sites have mastered this technique in order to increase the volume and popularity of their sites.  It is crucial that each of us go beyond the headlines and dive into the actual facts and information of the story to form our own opinions, and go even further to verify the story with other research and fact finding.” 

As the 2020 presidential election nears, Mr. Valentine believes that it is crucial for all voters, especially those who are voting for the first time, to do their part to become an informed citizen by reading factual sources.

“I think it is so important that every voter in America take the necessary steps to be an informed voter and be educated on the policies of both candidates,” Mr. Valentine said.  “Voting is an awesome responsibility that is at the heart of every democracy. It is incumbent of each voter to vote for the candidate that best matches their own views and who will lead and govern the closest to their beliefs.”

Featured Image by Natalie Dosmond ’21