STONY BROOK, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — In the digital age, it can be hard to tell fact from fiction.

“We are all confronted daily with an absolute tsunami of information,” said Howard Schneider, dean of Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism. “A sea of truths, half truths, propaganda, entertainment. The problem is what is news and what’s masquerading as news and that’s what this course is all about. How do you know the difference?”

LINK: Center for News Literacy

At Stony Brook University, students are being taught to look at news with a critical eye.

“There’s a lot of misinformation being spread,” said senior Paula Pecorella. “You need to know how to sift through this information overload that we’re dealing with right now and you need to be able to make sure that you’re getting the right information.”

The university is teaching students News Literacy.

“Instead of being a passive news consumer be more active in that process,” said lecturer and historian Jonathan Anzalone.

Pecorella and fellow senior John Scalamandre are learning how to dissect a news story and read cautiously.

“Fact check various articles to look for sources, to look for direct evidence in articles,” Scalamandre said.

“Source checking, being able to identify bias and I guess just the special interests of the people who are being interviewed in each article,” Pecorella said. “You need to really assess that and weigh that against the information they’re giving and what benefit are they getting from getting their message out.”

News literacy is not just for journalism majors. Schneider believes it is essential for everyone, especially in the digital age.

“We’re teaching them to deconstruct social media,” Schneider said. “When they get a social media post or tweet begin to do some investigation. where is it coming from? How do they know it’s reliable? What’s an assertion and what’s a verification?”

What started at Stony Brook is spreading.

Schneider said a version of the course is being taught in China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Poland, Russia, Israel and Australia.

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