Voices of a Generation

If President Donald Trump had a parrot, two of its favorite words would probably be “fake news.” Since he took office in 2016, he’s tweeted about “fake news” close to 1,000 times—and that’s just from his personal account. 

Now that Trump is on his way out of office, let’s throw out “fake news,” too.

QAnon conspiracy theories, which one third of Americans are open to, are just one recent example of why we need media literacy now more than ever. Without falling down a rabbit hole, these unfounded theories allege that the government and other elites are behind a large child trafficking and abuse scheme. So-called fake news isn’t news at all, and elevating these falsehoods and beliefs puts them perilously on par with the truth, which threatens democracy.

Not to sound too much like Smokey the Bear on who can prevent forest fires, but media literate people are the first step to stopping the spread of misinformation and disinformation. Each and every person should know how to suss out a well-reported, well-sourced, “real” news article. 

With a little help from the News Literacy Project, here are seven tips to consider before you hit share or retweet:

Check who the source is. 

When it comes down to the facts, it matters who you’re getting them. Check the source, and look where they land on this map created by Ad Fontes Media. The organization aims to make news media better, and they do that in part by evaluating media bias. Where news media organizations fall on the map reflects what they may want you to believe. Take that into consideration, and also use the map to reflect on the news you already consume. Where does the news you most often consume come from? Use that information to consider how much credibility you should give to other outlets.

Check who your sources’ sources are.

Have you seen all those pretty blue links littered throughout stories? Noticed any “according to” or “she said/he said”? Those are all signals pointing out how the author or news organization knows what they know. An article’s integrity hinges on the validity of those sources. So, if you see a source that ends in .gov or .org, that’s a good start. Also, check out the “she said/he said” and take note of their titles.

Take note of the date of the story and the photos. 

Sometimes history repeats itself, so check that the story you’re reading is recent. Also, in the case of breaking news, a few hours can make all the difference, so be sure to select the freshest content.

The pictures and videos packaged with stories aren’t always shot specifically for that story. It’s important to check their dates and captions,  like during protests in June when videos of fires in Minneapolis were repeatedly used by Fox News even on days when protests remained peaceful.

See if other organizations are reporting the same thing.

If multiple media outlets are reporting on the story, you can see for yourself how the facts and the framing match up. 

This would be a good opportunity to check out this media bias chart. You might find it eye-opening to see the differences in stories about the same topic as they’re written by different organizations. 

Turn the claim into a question and Google it!

If you’re still unsure of an article’s validity or want to learn more for yourself, turn the claim made into a question and search it online. 

Ask yourself—what’s the point of this?

Different pieces have different purposes. News is meant to inform, but opinions are meant to persuade. Which are you reading? Consider the author’s purpose, and don’t forget to check the labels on the page. News sites and newspapers should have news and opinion sections clearly marked.

Scroll through the comments.

Before you hit share, check out what other people are saying on social media. You never know when some real expert (or media literate hero) may have dropped a fact check in the comments debunking a post’s claim. Misinformation and disinformation can spread quickly and widely on popular platforms, so extra scrutiny is necessary. Commenters may share concerns that you should consider researching.

Seven steps, and you won’t look like a “fake news” fool? Sounds like a good deal. 

I had just finished my freshman year at DePauw University when America’s healthcare system came barging on my door, demanding my freedom, and occupying my time and thoughts.

You see, my laptop fell and shattered during finals, which was something expensive but fixable. I had spent the previous summer working double shifts at a local Steak ’n Shake and managed to save $2,000 before heading off to school. Thankfully, I earned just enough for a new laptop at the beginning of the school year.

Suddenly, everything changed.

I received a letter in the mail from my insurance company, MDwise. I had been dropped from my health insurance because I made too much money as a waitress who lived on her own and had no living parents for additional income.

On top of this, I now had limited access life-saving medication: insulin.

Despite recent claims about the price of insulin from President Donald J. Trump, I quickly found out insulin wasn’t cheap “like water.” Instead, the two different types of insulin I was on would cost me over $1,000 month without my health insurance.

Like many other diabetics throughout the country, I suddenly had to start rationing my insulin because I couldn’t afford to buy more while being a full-time student.

This isn’t only a problem for people with diabetes but a much larger one in America’s healthcare system.

Over 44 million Americans don’t have healthcare, which leaves them vulnerable to ridiculously high medical bills or price tags on indispensable medications, like insulin.

Trump also added insult to injury after repeatedly trying to take the Affordable Care Act (ACA) down.

The law, which was put into effect during former President-elect Joe Biden’s term as vice president, makes it illegal for any health insurance company to deny an individual coverage based on pre-existing conditions, such as (but not limited to) diabetes.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 50 million to 129 million of non-elderly Americans have some type of pre-existing health condition.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard a case that could destroy the healthcare law, also known as Obamacare, though some justices posed queries suggesting they were open to keeping the law. If the ACA stays intact, there are many changes that obviously need to be made to transform America’s healthcare system into something more accessible, especially for those who don’t qualify for Medicare.

Biden continues to promote a plan to build on the Affordable Care Act by giving Americans more choice, reducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate.

But, even with these promises, changing the Affordable Care Act will take more push and pull when it comes to getting bills passed through the House and Senate.

At the end of the day, all Americans shouldn’t have to worry about their access to needed medications and medical assistance. We shouldn’t have to worry if our health will be jeopardized based on bills being passed or held due to political party differences, or in my case by a simple letter arriving in the mail.

There are many countries that offer universal healthcare to every citizen, as it should be in the United States. We need fewer promises and promotions, and more delivery of better healthcare access.

Protest art has been a crucial component to raising awareness in the wake of uprisings linked to the Black Lives Matter Movement and drama of the 2020 presidential election. Kara Walker’s recent Instagram post Kick ‘m to the curb references kicking President Donald J. Trump out of the most powerful office of the United States. Having the ability to participate as a voter for the first time in this year’s election, all types of art spoke to me and allowed me to become more interested and informed about critical issues occurring this year.

Art is a form of expression and is usually up for interpretation. Protest art is explicit and straight to the point. It challenges the status quo and hierarchies imposed by those in power. However, due to the expressive nature of art, many artists are activists as well. Whatever medium is utilized, art matters because it can provoke emotions, inspire people to create, and soothe and heal the broken. Art has the ability to illustrate narratives and different perspectives.

Belief+Doubt (2012) at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden by Betty London.

Protest art is important for visual learners to process information in this day and age. With the coronavirus, the Black Lives Matter movement and women’s rights coming into the spotlight, protest art plays a role in all of this. When you’re scrolling through Instagram or TikTok you constantly see forms of art, whether it's digital posters or visual art performances. Whether we realize it or not, protest art is constantly surrounding us and pushing us to speak up — for what is right or perceived to be.

Three particular artists stand out for their ability to speak into the moment.

Barbra Kruger is an American artist who pairs text and images to convey a direct feminist cultural critique, and her work may be seen on MoMA’s website. Kruger’s output examines stereotypes through the use of bold text layered over mass-media images. MoMA states that Kruger often uses phrases in her work that include pronouns such as “you,” “your,” “I,” “we,” and  “they.”

These words address cultural constructions of power, identity, sexuality and consumerism. The image titled Untitled (Your Body Is A Battleground) resonates today, just as it did a quarter of a century ago. Kruger made this iconic image with a black-and-white background and bold red text for the Women’s March on Washington in 1989 after a string of anti-abortion laws “began to undermine Roe v. Wade,” according to JSTOR Daily.  

Ai Weiwei’s efforts as a protest artist are straightforward and directed at politics. According to The Nation, he has an eye for the point of interaction between art and politics and how it can be formed into performance art. He says an artist must be an activist. Weiwei is openly critical of the Chinese government’s stance on human rights.

Shown in a photographic light, Dropping a Han Dynasty urn (1995), shows Weiwei releasing a precious artifact in a multi staged shoot. This act is one form of protest through art.

Kara Walker is another prime example of a protest artist who resonates with audiences. According to Time magazine, Walker is known for her ambitious work across mediums by interrogating race, sexuality, slavery and identity. Directly after Joe Biden was announced as president-elect, Walker took to her Instagram @kara_walker_official to post work, particularly the viral Kick ‘m to the curb image.

Walker typically works with black paper cutouts to make her mark, silhouette-style. Her trademark approach shows an African American woman kicking the ousted Trump, hair flipping upward with a potbelly, in the air. Although this work is posted to Instagram and is not displayed in a museum, it still serves as a reminder that protest art comes in all shapes and sizes and platforms.

Kara Walker @Kara_walker_official

It’s important to reiterate how all of these artists use art to awaken their audiences. When people’s backs are to the wall, protest artists like Kruger, Weiwei and Walker have ours.

Four years ago, I was an eager, giddy freshman ready to take on the world: I could never imagine I would be launching my life in the middle of a pandemic. But launch I must: So, each Sunday afternoon I find myself in bed, wearing the pajamas from the night before as I muster enough motivation to open up my laptop and start typing different variations of "entry-level positions," "Indianapolis" and "communications" into Google and LinkedIn.

I mark my favorites and apply to jobs that fit my qualifications and even apply for positions for which I barely meet the criteria because — why not? This is my new routine. Within an hour of searching, I typically have 10 new tabs of job listings on top of the 20 open tabs for what I'm calling Zoom University.

I'm doing everything I can to network, seek advice, and show up in the life I hope to build. The coronavirus pandemic has crippled me and thousands of other graduating seniors. While I'm hopeful that my search will turn up an opportunity sooner rather than later, young adults at large are facing a joblessness crisis that 10 or 20 open tabs won't fix. We need our U.S. Congress to approve a second stimulus package.

“Job seekers who face high unemployment rates at the start of their careers may endure lower salaries during the first decade of their professional lives, said Jesse Rothstein, an economist and professor at the University of California at Berkeley, who recently wrote a paper about the impact on college graduates in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Unemployment rates declined among all major worker groups by October. The rate was 6.7% (men); 6.5% (women); 13.9% (teens); 6% (whites); 10.8% (African Americans); 7.6% (Asians) and 8.8% Hispanics. The jobs picture for young adults doesn’t look great: The jobless rate for 20-24-year-olds was at 10.8% as of October of 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In  January 2020, the overall unemployment rate stood at 3.9%, but the job market has drastically shrunk for recent graduates since then.

Economic Policy Institute

New college graduates need a chance. We may only have a little experience under our belts, but we are willing to work and learn.

“Graduating in the midst of a pandemic sucks, to say the least,” said McCauleigh Whalen, a Ball State University senior who is graduating in the spring with a degree in applied behavior analysis. “I feel extremely discouraged when thinking about how close I am to having to join the world of work.” 

New college graduates like myself and Whalen are entering the worst job market in over a decade. Increased unemployment means higher competition and the economic recession means lower starting salaries due to coronavirus. For many, it has caused them to rethink their career path.

Economic Policy Institute

“With everything that’s going on it’s pushed me to consider other options,” Whalen said. “With little out there, I had to defer my job search, and I’ve decided to further my education and apply to grad school. I feel it’ll allow more time for me to figure the next steps and maybe the world will with this time return to some normalcy.”

With graduation comes student loan debt.

The average student loan debt is $32,731 according to Forbes magazine. I currently owe $25,025 in student loans. This is just another anxiety for recent graduates. How will students start paying back their loans with no job? 

In April, Congress offered some economic relief through the CARES Act.

Roughly 175 million American adults received $1,200 stimulus checks, plus an extra $500 per child under the age of 16. However, most college students were left out of this stimulus package because they were claimed by their parents or guardians as dependents on tax returns, meaning anyone aged 17-24 was ineligible.

There are an estimated 16.9 million students enrolled in undergraduate programs in the U.S. according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Many of us are employed while attending school. In 2018, 81% of part-time students were employed, and 43% of full-time students were working. This was the latest figure available. I am a tutor at DePauw University’s academic resource center. I work four hours a week earning $7.50 an hour. My paychecks act as pocket change, not a livable wage, which is something I could definitely use.

College students don’t have adequate economic support. What we do have is: no stimulus checks, high unemployment, decreased on-campus job opportunities and no agreement on a second stimulus package.

The CARES Act did set aside $6.28 billion for emergency grants to students whose lives have been upended by the coronavirus. While this effort was helpful and well-intentioned, it is not enough to stabilize college students’ entry into the economy. The incoming Biden-Harris administration could bring the relief we need.

Until then, I will do my part with each search, open tab and follow-up email at a time.

I was sitting around with some friends recently talking about the coronavirus vaccines currently in development being more than 90% effective. That news gave us hope. But then, the conversation quickly turned to the excitement of not wearing a mask anymore: “If the vaccine is this effective, why would we need to wear a mask? I’m done wearing it and do not need to anymore,” one friend said.

If any of your friends are as groan-worthy as mine, make sure to educate them that wearing a mask is still as strong as medicine until we get an actual vaccine.

I’m choosing to listen to experts like Dr. Christina Brennan, vice president of clinical research at Feinstein’s Institute for Medical Research. During a recent “60 Minutes” interview, she said if she had to choose between a mask or a vaccine, she’s going with mask.

“With our social distancing, wearing of the mask, the data is already showing that it’s been effective. It’s, you know, cost savings, and it’s effective. And it can go a long way,” Brennan said.

@missys20

#duet with @leezzuhh I get it, but really???

♬ It's Tricky - RUN DMC

Then there’s the evidence-based opinion of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said mask-wearing more than likely averted more than 200,000 of cases by late May.

With the data showing that wearing a mask is useful, it is crucial to keep this in mind as we become closer to a vaccine, especially with the question marks that come with the vaccine.

“Some of the vaccines may require one or more boosters to provide maximum protection, meaning you have to get another shot after a certain period of time,” according to Dr. Mark Kortepeter, a public health & general preventive medicine specialist in Washington, D.C., writing in Forbes magazine.

When the vaccine does become available sometime in 2021, we won’t know where anyone else is in their vaccination schedule, and therefore, how well protected they are, which is why we need to continue protecting ourselves when around others, he said. We also won’t really know how effective the vaccine is after that.

“The FDA has stated that the minimum effectiveness of a licensed vaccine will have to be 50%,” Kortepeter said. “A vaccine that only meets the 50% standard would mean only half of those who receive the vaccine will be fully protected.”

While we should be excited and hopeful for vaccine that can provide some protection from the ravages of COVID-19, we still should not forget guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that have been in place to keep us safe.

Got the message? Post by Ben Herron.

Please do not be like Sarah Jamison in Melissa Schaub’s TikTok post where she tries to prove wearing a mask does not work. Her example of wearing a mask and blowing out a lighter an inch away from her face is not valid and proves nothing.

Instead, listen to Melissa, and wear a mask, be respectful. It is equivalent to fighting someone with one hand behind your back without wearing a mask with the vaccine. If you have ever been in a fight, you know you need two hands to defend yourself.

During this era of social media, Donald J. Trump, has single-handedly created a bully pulpit of his role as of president of the United States in his use of Twitter. He has leveraged his communication staff and attempted to manipulate the media and the public at large. More recently the president has been promulgating the notion of “preemptively” pardoning himself. If this were to occur in some form or fashion, I believe most educated Americans would ask, who did it? And what did they do?

Without an actual prosecution against Trump or one of his companies, there is nothing for Trump to pardon at this time. Media reports suggest he will face some of the deepest financial and legal challenges in his family business empire in decades when he leaves office.

Using his position to manipulate the system for his own benefit while in office and stimulating the idea of granting a “presidential pardon” should not be tolerated.

This issue of self-pardoning surfaced back in the Nixon era whereby the U.S. Justice Department examined the question and concluded it wasn’t within the president’s power to pardon himself.

“Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the president cannot pardon himself,” the Office of Legal Counsel wrote in August 1974.

However, Trump doesn’t agree with this as he Tweeted in June 2018: “As has been stated by numerous scholars, I have the absolute right to pardon myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never-ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the midterms!”

Based on his interest with this issue, another option Trump may pursue involves Vice-President Mike Pence. The 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows an incapacitated president to temporarily step down. In Nixon’s case, he resigned in the face of the Watergate scandal, and his successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him for any federal crimes he committed while in office. Trump could attempt such gamesmanship with Pence, but I struggle with what Pence would gain from such a move.

Given the fact, many of the potential crimes Trump faces are outside the federal level, which would not be covered by a presidential pardon, an indirect admission that comes along with accepting a pardon suggests it is unlikely to happen.

One thing is consistent throughout this controversy: Trump will stoop to any level no matter how low or “unpresidential” the behavior may be to protect himself. His character and actions in office support this idea.

However, that does not give him the right to be the judge of himself or misuse the office of the president and manipulate anything and everything for his own benefit. He would leave a much stronger legacy by paying attention to the management of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, highlighting his accomplishments, and assisting President-elect Joe Biden in his transition.