Media Literacy Clears Up Fake News

By Peggy Trujillo
a reflection post for ICC 602 at Syracuse University

These days, we hear the term “fake news” getting thrown around often. I think of fake news as one of the carriers of a disease called ignorance. These carriers lurk on social media sites, looking to spread the disease far and wide.

The best cure or treatment option for the disease of ignorance is media literacy. When a person becomes media literate, they can better differentiate fact from fiction. Hopefully, this not only helps the media literate person, but also allows them to help spread the cure.

Early in 2019, many news organizations, including Newsweek, put out stories about Marlboro’s parent company making a statement that they were looking for ways to stop cigarette production forever. The article was not untrue, but was very misleading.

Snopes, a website known for getting to the real truth, can help the media illiterate get on the path of finding the facts. They found that the people reporting the news were not lying, but the stories were very misleading, especially to the American audience.

Basically, PMI, which produces and distributes Marlboro overseas, did state at the  beginning of the year that they were in the process of finding ways to stop cigarette production in favor of other tobacco options. However, there are a couple of different points that make the story different than what it seems on the surface.

  1. There was no “new” announcement. Andre Calantzopoulos, the CEO of Phillip Morris International, reiterated old news during an interview with Sky News, pointing out again that the company was looking into other options, so they could eventually end cigarette production.
  2. Philip Morris International, the company making the statement, have nothing to do Marlboro production in the United States. Marlboro belongs to Philip Morris USA. They are totally different companies. The American company has made no such statement.

This story acts as a non-dangerous model of how damaging some fake news can be, especially when it is masked in truth. Sometimes, it’s easy to find. If it seems outlandish or unbelievable, it probably is.

However, when the lies, or just misleading information, are wrapped in truth, people find it much more believable. This can lead to people making decisions based on misinformation. When it comes to politics or social issues, this can be a big problem.

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