As 2020 disappears into the rear view and the world mutters ‘Good riddance’ we seek reasons for optimism and find one in Taiwan. There, Audrey Tang, the Digital Minister, presides over an innovative and effective antidote to the disinformation pandemic: media competency. The premise is simple. Whereas media literacy aims to teach students how to safely and knowledgeably consume information, media competency recognizes that we are all now contributors, producers of information, and therefore we need to learn duties and responsibilities consistent with the traditional practice—the skills and ethics–of journalism. This month, we offer links that list and describe some of those key skills and traits. In doing so, we hope to shine an optimistic light into 2021 and beyond, when disinformation will wither on the vine, and a true social universe of better information abounds. One can hope.

  • Collective Intelligence with more signal than noiseThe Site Magazine published a lengthy Interview with the Digital Minister of Taiwan conducted by Matthew Claudel. It’s a long read, but much can be learned from a quick scan if time is an issue. A fulsome teaser: “In Taiwan, we say digital competence. We don’t say literacy. It’s a conscious choice because in Mandarin, literacy…assumes that you are a consumer or a viewer, a reader of information, whereas competence… means that you are a producer, a creator, a steward of information, and data, and media…The kind of digital competence framework that we baked into the basic curriculum, starting from the primary school, from the first grade, actually, is to show people to be responsible citizen journalists, essentially. The importance of fact-checking, of understanding your sources, of framing correctly, of engaging with the audience in a responsible way, of tapping into the journalists’ community, of how you can, for example, listen to the presidential debate and help typing in the transcript and fact-check each and every word they say, and your name will be credited into the collaborative fact-checking, and things like that.”
  • Taiwan Is Beating Political Disinformation. The West Can Too.Ms. Tang’s work has been noted in the US. Writing for, Walter Kerr and Macon Phillips make the case for the US to take a leaf from Taiwan’s notebook. They write: “Hard as it may be to imagine against the backdrop of conspiracy theories about child trafficking or supposed vaccination dangers dominating Facebook and YouTube for months, Taiwan should give everyone hope that we can live in a normal news environment again. The West’s response to disinformation so far has largely been reactive. It could do far better by following the Taiwanese model and taking an active stance against it. As a Washington Post headline reads, ‘[D]isinformation is ascendant. Taiwan shows how we can defeat it.’”
  • The Qualities of a Good Newspaper JournalistThe online journal Chron, in an article for would-be print journalists, briefly describes journalism as a career and lists what attributes it takes to be successful. These include legal and ethical responsibilities, such as avoiding libel and invasion of privacy, and ensuring one is presenting all sides of an issue, as well as investigative skills, and applying critical thinking when weighing conflicting accounts of a story. Among their duties, news reporters report and news editors edit, so that nothing is published that is not edited beforehand. Note, Chron includes a LOT of click-bait advertising, so heads up.
  • The Pyramid of Journalism Competence: what journalists need to knowPoynter’s December article employs a visual model representing a Pyramid of Competence. Spearheaded at its peak by Mission and Purpose, it stands on a base of Judgment, Story-telling, Critical Thinking and Evidence. For each element in the pyramid, they offer examples of what it entails, as well suggesting possible programs and courses that could help develop these skills and characteristics.
  • Declaration of the Rights and Duties of JournalistsThe online organization Accountable Journalism details the ten duties of journalists, including the duty, “to respect the truth,” “To report only on facts of which he knows the origin,” and, “To regard as grave professional offences the following : plagiarism, calumny, slander, libel and unfounded accusations, the acceptance of bribe in any form in consideration of either publication or suppression of news…” As for rights, “…journalists claim free access to all information sources, and the right to freely inquire on all events conditioning public life.”
  • The Conversation “Our Charter”The well-regarded online journal The Conversation, whose byline boasts “academic rigour, journalistic flair,” lays out its standards for ethical journalism in its charter, in which it promises, to Inform public debate with knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence,” to “Provide a fact-based and editorially independent forum, free of commercial or political bias,” and to “Ensure quality, diverse and intelligible content reaches the widest possible audience by employing experienced editors to curate the site,” among others.

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