Conversation with KQED’s David Markus

As executive in charge of arts, food, and learning at KQED, David Markus brings decades of experience in journalism, education, and digital storytelling to the challenge of creating media that inspires people to change their lives for the better. Formerly an editor of Time and Parenting magazines, he has led digital ventures for Time Inc., AOL, Yahoo, and the George Lucas Education Foundation. At KQED, Markus is developing new, cutting-edge content and media projects to expand access to Bay Area arts, illuminate the region’s rich food culture, and help teachers provide students with media literacy tools to become the engaged citizens of tomorrow.

Inspired by the new OMCA installation History Now: Fake News, which examines the past and present of “fake news,” Markus answered questions about today’s truth problem and how to combat it.

How insidious is the fake news problem now?

Fake news, of course, is not new. People have always made up stuff about one another and published it in the media. But with the internet, anyone can do it easily. We all have the means to launch a fake news story, and online proliferation and microtargeting makes it an immense challenge. If a fake news story is repeated enough times, many people will believe it.

What can media consumers do to be smarter about their news sources?

To start with, be your own fact checker. When you read something, ask yourself, “Should I consider believing this?” Every single quote should always be attributed. It’s good to Google story sources and read opposing opinions. Try to be as objective as you can, and challenge yourself to be comfortable with differing points of view.

Is there any reason to feel positive about the future of news consumption?

Here at KQED Learning, we see developing media literacy as an important part of the learning process. Our new YouTube series for teens, Above the Noise, for example, looks at topics that are often distorted in the media and encourages young viewers to draw their own informed conclusions, strengthen their critical thinking and media literacy skills, and engage as citizens.

Media literacy is an idea that’s been around for a while, but it’s now critical to citizenship and our democracy. Citizens have to be able to make a factually informed decision in the voting booth and have community discussions based on science and reality. If facts are up for grabs, there is no terra firma from which to build solutions. That’s why media literacy skills are more important than ever, and it’s essential to build them in the middle and high school years. At KQED, we’ve launched a media literacy pilot project with two or three local school districts, and we’re very hopeful that it will become an embedded part of school curriculums. 

Photography: Courtesy of Oakland Museum of California (Fake news main image); Courtesy of David Markus (David Markus).

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