family gatheringsI have a few pet peeves — drivers who go slow in a passing lane, the self-checkout kiosks at stores that bark at me before I even have a chance
to put my items in the bags, and people who claim to be a “victim” of the media.

Technology is a blessing. We are fortunate to live in a time when we can carry a world of information at our fingertips. We also live in a country where people not only have the right to share their thoughts and opinions but also have the right to choose what they consider to be reliable sources of information. But I believe technology is also a curse: It allows people to misinform and disinform, and yes, these terms have different meanings, the latter carries intention. Technology also enables us to be passive consumers of news and information because algorithms decide what news we see on our feeds and social platforms.

Some of us entered our adult lives at a time when we got the bulk of our news from the local newspaper that arrived in our mailbox every morning or from the TV evening news. This delivery of information has changed dramatically, transferring some of the onus that used to belong mainly to reporters and news outlets to the consumer.

Over the last few decades, we have built a landscape where anyone with a podcast, website, digital newsletter, or social media account can call themselves a journalist or news source. But we as consumers must evolve too — we have to be smart and discriminating in what we each individually accept as accurate, reliable information.

I get frustrated when I hear comments that the media is ruining America. My frustration lies in the belief that if we let the media ruin our country, it is because we are passive consumers. We have to take responsibility for our own media literacy. The News Literacy Project,, a nonprofit committed to improving news literacy and combating misinformation and disinformation, can get us started.

I implore you, especially as the presidential election nears, to be an active, not passive, consumer of information and media. How do you do that?

• Decide what media sources you deem legitimate and accurate. Don’t consider something valid news just because it appears on your social feed. Get in the habit of going directly to your preferred news sources instead of waiting for it to show up on your Facebook page.

• Rethink that juicy headline. Find out whether other legitimate news outlets are also reporting what’s in the story underneath the headline.

• Determine what types of sources you require in reporting that you trust. Do you want to see news based on academic journals, scientific studies, experts from academia or government organizations? Is a source valid simply because it has a lot of TikTok followers?

People with harmful intentions can harness artificial intelligence and other technologies to do real damage by passing themselves off as media and information sources. It’s our job to be more diligent by questioning what we read, verifying information, and understanding the motivations of the person or outlet delivering the news. I wish you a safe, healthy and well-informed summer.

As always, please share your thoughts with me at

Kym Byrnes

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