Instituto Politécnico de Viseu (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2022 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Pages: 3005-3013
ISBN: 978-84-09-37758-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2022.0846
Conference name: 16th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-8 March, 2022
Location: Online Conference
Journalism plays an important role in the construction of reality and is, at the same time, one of the doors of access to the world. Traditional media underwent an inevitable reconversion with the emergence and growth of the internet and, currently, there is a significant change in the information consumption profile, especially among the younger population, who are digital natives and the main users of social networks. Digital has brought, simultaneously, easier access to any information, as well as an overwhelming amount of that information. Among other consequences of this informational “tsunami”, fake news is one of the most expressive faces of the new era.

Since social communication professionals are one of the groups in society that has to face the challenge of misinformation on a daily basis, it seemed pertinent to assess the degree of literacy of students when they start the course, particularly in the context of misinformation, brought to the public agenda with the proliferation of fake news.

Based on the definition of this concept as forged information, which aims to manipulate and/or deceive the audience (Lazer et al., 2018) and considering that in Portugal, in 2020, a study by Obercom showed that almost half of respondents said they had difficulties in distinguishing false information from news (Obercom, 2020), we wanted to assess the level of media literacy and the impact of misinformation among students in the 1st year of a degree in Social Communication. Seeking to assess the degree of preparation of students in the field of Communication Sciences to deal with this reality, we applied a questionnaire to students in the 1st year of the degree in Social Communication at the High School of Education – Polytechnic Institute of Viseu.

The first results from the questionnaires applied in the 2020/2021 academic year, show some trends in the profile of students upon entry into higher education, namely in terms of unpreparedness and difficulties in classifying fake news.

Most of the 1st year students agree that the definition of fake news is “false news published by the media”. This answer demonstrates the misunderstanding between news as an informative product conceived within a news media and fake news as manufactured information, reproducing, only in its form, the informative media (Lazer et al., 2018), and aiming at manipulation or deceiving of the audience.

Still in the field of misinformation, the difficulty in clearly identifying fake news sites also seems to be one of the main problems faced by students when entering higher education.

At the same time and given the excerpts in which students should classify the content, it is worth noting the fact that almost all 1st year students classify the two examples of fake news presented as news. We are talking about excerpts without an identified source of information and where the purpose of appealing to emotions seems clear. The fact that, in the excerpts of these fake news, most students consider that the source does not exist or is not trustworthy and, at the same time, agree with the classification of the content as news should be an object of reflection.
Journalism, Fake News, Media Literacy, Media Education.