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Friday, June 14, 2024

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The Supreme Court throws out a Trump-era ban on gun bump stocks; a look at how social media algorithms and Shakespearian villains have in common; and states receive federal funding to clean up legacy mine pollution.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

Measuring long-term impact of Simpson trial on media literacy

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Friday, April 12, 2024   

O.J. Simpson's death has the nation looking back on the infamous murder trial that resulted in his acquittal. Experts say one of the lasting impacts is news coverage and how people consume it.

The lengthy trial proceedings from the mid-1990s were televised, setting a pathway for cameras in the courtroom.

Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota's Hubbard School of Journalism, said it also ushered in a cottage industry of pundits brought in to analyze the events of each day. That made it easier for people to get a recap during a 24-hour news cycle, but she added that there was a drawback to getting so much information through analysis.

"It also meant that people could suspend their critical thinking, to a certain extent," she said, "and I believe we're still seeing that today. The rise of social media has only made it easier."

However, she said it did expose issues with how criminal cases are handled, and viewers were able to see it firsthand. Given how the accessibility of information has exploded since the trial, Kirtley said, news consumers can't lose sight of the need to examine where they're getting it from. That includes whether the source is producing the news themselves, and if the details are being vetted.

Tessa Jolls, president and CEO of the Center for Media Literacy, said the trial firmly established entertainment as a core element of news coverage, making it profitable. She said outlets still have to reel people in with this approach to survive in a challenging landscape, but added that a sensationalized case such as this one sometimes helps with engagement in a positive way.

"They were seeing what the news organizations chose to show, and that gave people a chance to talk to each other and compare notes," she said. "In that sense, I think people probably did become savvier."

The trial also touched on racial issues and domestic violence, and Jolls said it was natural for people to have strong emotions about the developments. But she noted that it serves as a reminder for audiences to not let their gut feelings cloud how they weigh the facts presented to them.

"We need to see that our emotions are definitely present and that they may be swaying our thinking," she said, "and so, it's important to ask questions, to be skeptical."


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