Thought Leadership

Why News Literacy Is an Absolutely Essential Skill

Fake News

As a communications professional, and PRSA 2021 chair, I am increasingly frustrated by, and concerned about, the continued proliferation of mis- and disinformation in our society and around the world.

I find it ironic and disheartening that one of the biggest news stories of our time is the rise of what have become known as “fake news” and “alternative facts.”

A 2020 report from the Institute for Public Relations found that Americans view misinformation (61 percent) and disinformation (58 percent) to be major problems in society, more so than illegal drug use or abuse (55 percent), crime (55 percent), gun violence (54 percent) and political partisanship (53 percent).

What this and many other research studies and surveys tell me is that news literacy is an absolutely essential skill for everyone to have to navigate the information overload we are constantly experiencing.

This week, the News Literacy Project and The E.W. Scripps Company are joining forces to present the second annual National News Literacy Week, which includes the rollout of a public awareness campaign, quizzes, tips and tools to help promote news literacy and a free press in American democracy. You can find details at

I believe we should view National News Literacy Week as an urgent and renewed call to action, intensifying our commitment to combat the flow of disinformation and its destructive consequences.

President Biden said in his inaugural address last week, “We must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.” As communications professionals, we are uniquely qualified to help do just that.

Michelle Olson, APR, is the 2021 chair of PRSA.

[Illustration credit: takasu]

About the author

Michelle Olson, APR


  • The media is continuing to dominate the lives of individuals across the world as technology advances. The increasing use of social media and other news outlets call for the importance of news literacy. As an undergraduate PR student, I am aware of the pertinence of news literacy and how vital it is to communication. Too often, unreliable sources delude the public and provide misinformation. Our society has become vulnerable and the public is easily susceptible to believing anything on social media. This issue is proliferating and it is the job of PR professionals to reject misinformation and advocate for news literacy. The freedom of press in America is an important liberty to exercise, understand and evaluate. It is extremely valuable and essential for our society to comprehend and maneuver through the vast plethora of news and other modern forms of communication.

    Western Kentucky University

  • I completely agree that News literacy is an “essential skill” that we all need to learn or have some knowledge about especially during this time. The Digital age is becoming more and more advanced and continuing to grow. It is important that the public has some knowledge of how to judge the reliability and credibility of information, whether it’s in the form of print, television or the Internet. Like mentioned in the article it is very disheartening to see facts and opinions and “fake news” have such blurred lines between each other amongst the public. The ideas that has and the effort they are putting into this project deserves more recognition and participation. Being able to separate fact from fiction is essential so that the public can decide what to focus their efforts on.

    Bryanna Imel
    Western Kentucky University

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