Media literacy coalition brings MisinfoDay to California

Inspired by the annual MisinfoDay co-organized through a statewide partnership between the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public and Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, a local media literacy coalition in Monterey County, California adapted the educational program to host the first MisinfoDay in the Golden State on May 7.

Nearly 100 students from six high schools in Monterey County participated in MisinfoDay California workshops on algorithmic bias and identifying fake or misleading online information, and interactive activities, including a misinformation “escape room” style game developed by the CIP-led Loki’s Loop team at the UW Information School. 

The Media Literacy Coalition in Monterey County, led by local journalist and community activist Susan Meister, includes educators, news organizations, community stakeholders and public officials.

Jim Boren, the former executive editor of the Fresno Bee and current executive director of the Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust, wrote in a blog post: “The students had no prior formal media literacy skills, yet they embraced the training with remarkable ease. In watching this event, I knew that this generation of students can be taught media literacy skills that they can pass on to their classmates, family members and friends. They represent a generation of hope at a time when misinformation on the internet seems overwhelming.”

Boren was one of MisinfoDay California’s presenters, along with CIP co-founder and UW Information School associate professor Jevin West and Liz Crouse, the CIP’s MisinfoDay program coordinator who helped launch the first MisinfoDay at UW Seattle in 2019 as a Master of Library and Information Science student at the iSchool. 

“It was truly inspiring to see the organizers take the MisinfoDay model and make it work so successfully for their community. Students had fun learning about misinformation tactics and how to check things they’re unsure of, and teachers were excited to bring these lessons back to their schools and districts,” Crouse said. “We’re thrilled to support this work in California and around the country.”

Among the California media literacy advocates who have championed MisinfoDay in their state is State Assemblymember Marc Berman of Menlo Park, who spearheaded A.B. 873, legislation that requires California schools to incorporate media literacy into core curricula.

Berman, whose legislation was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2023, said, according to Boren, that we “have a responsibility to teach the next generation to be more critical consumers of online content and more guarded against misinformation, propaganda, and conspiracy theories.”

In an interview with KAZU Public Radio in Monterey County, Berman said that he hopes that “Misinfo Day is going to be such a huge success that more and more people kind of hear about it and learn about it and want to replicate it.”

Additional media literacy educational events are being planned in California. Meister told the Monterey County Weekly, another member of the local Media Literacy Coalition, that more MisinfoDay events are planned for Media Literacy Week in October. Boren, meanwhile, said that the Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust is looking to organize a similar event. 

In a recent staff editorial, the student newspaper at Redwood High School in Redwood City, California called for their school and schools nationwide to host their own MisinfoDay events. “Media literacy education and lessons on safe social media use offer important insight to be able to decipher misinformation from the truth. High school-age youth must have the capacity to decipher true and false information, and media literacy only continues to gain importance in this fast-paced world.” 

In March, nearly 700 high school students, teachers and librarians in Washington participated in MisinfoDay 2024 events at UW Seattle, WSU Pullman and WSU Vancouver, with scores of teachers from 10 other states registering their classes to participate in virtual MisinfoDay programming. 

“The whole motivation for this program was to spend an entire day which might be the only day that many of these students will devote to this, what I consider one of the more important things that we can be teaching our public,” West told KUOW Public Radio’s Kim Malcolm in a segment that aired in March on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.”

This article was first published on the Center for an Informed Public's website.