HometownBrazos County


Scripps News Literacy Week: How misinformation has impacted public health

Posted at 11:52 PM, Jan 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-28 15:01:34-05

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — From television to digital platforms, the traditional way people get their news is shifting.

Sixty percent of U.S. adults get their news from either a smartphone, computer, or tablet, according to Pew Research, while 40 percent of people still choose traditional TV news.

While more people choose to get their news on the go, it can open the door for misinformation in news, especially when it comes to your health.

“We’re exiting a pandemic, and the last few years have been challenging for all members of society, especially in health care because we are dealing with the direct and indirect effects of a disease that is new to all of us," said Dr. Kia Parsi, director of Texas A&M Rural and Community Health Institute. "With a new disease in a pandemic like COVID and well well-meaning people want to know what to do in these situations. It’s important to be education and media is one source for individuals to get that education.”

The health care industry is also taking a big hit from COVID the labor department says half a million healthcare workers called it quits since the start of COVID.

Parsi says the media has helped get the right info out to the public, but still rural, small Texas communities are hurting the most.

“It’s taken a toll, it’s taken a toll as our community as a whole in healthcare providers, many have retired or left the health care industry and one of the things we are trying to do in the institute and other schools is how can we support these rural communities and encourage a workforce that is right now depleted," said Parsi.

But good journalism starts in the classroom, like the one I went to — more than 80 miles away from The Brazos Valley at The University of Houston.

University of Houston professor Beth Olson says the fight against misinformation starts with how you teach it, especially about fact checking.

“It’s changed in that we put more emphasis on their ability to discern what’s fact and what’s not," Olson said. "Everybody now is their own “gatekeeper” you can control your own information about what you put on your own Facebook or Twitter feeds and those aren’t always checked so that’s the danger in disseminating that kind of information."

Olson says while her and her colleagues are always updating their curriculum, they'll leave with the best start for informing the public.

“There are always a few stars or a few that stand out, some people who are really dedicated and have this in their blood, there are those who will crawl over broken glass to have the position that you have," Olson said. "We still have those students starting in those smaller stations moving up so that gives me hope that we are doing the right thing.”