Originally published by The Holmes Report.
NEW YORK — As the threat of ‘fake news’ persists, the PR Council has struck a partnership with the News Literacy Project aimed at boosting understanding of the issue and its ramifications.
Under the year-long effort, which is already underway, Alan Miller, News Literacy’s founder and CEO, is offering agency staff training on how to spot and manage fake news, as well as what he calls ‘disruptive information,’ so they in turn may then may share the same lessons in-house.
The council, along with participating agencies, are also boosting support for the organization, which is dedicated to giving kids in the sixth through 12th grades the tools and information they need to distinguish fact from fiction. Agencies are doing that by driving the news media’s awareness of the organization (with the goal of yielding stories) or raising funds for it.
Anne Green, CooperKatz’s CEO and a PR Council board member, is a leading proponent of the initiative. She said that educating people inside and outside the industry about the issue is incumbent on its leaders.
“We as PR professionals have a critical responsibility to speak up and act in building better literacy about the news, and all information. It’s critical to our industry and democracy,” Green said.
“Misinformation and division can cause people to shut down and stop people from consuming media, can shut off our channels,” she said, adding that fraudulent stories can also be very damaging to clients if they’re targeted. “We can’t operate in a culture where information is completely controlled or breaking down or there is no trust.”
Miller, the NLP founder, said the council’s effort comes at a time when news literacy is of serious concern due to the proliferation of false information, and the consequent social and political ramifications.
“I think that what the country and really the world is facing is the equivalent of a public health epidemic. Fake news or counterfeit news is damaging to democracy and dangerous to the health of citizens,” Miller said. “It really calls for inoculation of the news against this scourge and the public as well.”
Having PR leaders on board, added Miller, helps the effort to drive awareness of the issue as they have “considerable expertise”. “They understand the importance of what we are doing both in terms of the work they do and the broader interest in and education of the country’s democracy.”
Renee Wilson, the council’s outgoing president, said “it was an easy decision to partner with the NLP as through our PRC agency members, and their clients, we can help facilitate an intentional leadership discussion around news literacy.