Fake News, Alternative Facts, and Disinformation: The Importance of Teaching Media Literacy to Law Students
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Media literacy education can help all people fight against fake news, alternative facts, and the pervasive spread of disinformation in our society. Media literacy should be a required and integral part of all levels of our educational systems. Like legal education, media literacy education teaches critical thinking skills. Students with media literacy education will be able to evaluate media messages and decide for themselves the truth, falsity, and/or bias of media communications in their professional and personal life. Today, information about the world around us comes to us not only by words on a piece of paper but also, more and more, through the powerful images and sounds of our multimedia culture. Part II of this article sets out the reasons why law students should graduate with media literacy skills. Part III discusses how various groups define media literacy and why a media literacy education program is important to citizens and society at large. Part IV surveys the current state of media literacy education in non-legal educational settings. It also reviews how media literacy has skimmed the surface of legal education, and looks at the American Bar Association ("ABA") Chapter 3 requirements for legal education. Part V then evaluates the reasons why media literacy and fake news are inexplicably intertwined with legal education requirements under ABA Standards 301 and 302.8. Part V argues that those schools that claim to have "practice ready" law graduates are not doing a complete job educating their students without also teaching them media literacy and complete critical thinking skills. Part VI concludes that law students must have exposure to media literacy education to be able to evaluate fake news and alternative facts, as well as parse out disinformation, in order to be effective attorneys at law. Media literacy education is critical at all levels, but it is important under the ABA guidelines and should be a required inclusion for legal education programs.