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Getting Out The Vote Group focuses on first-time voters

By Sofia Mendes

The MediaWise Voter Project is continuing to educate students and first-time voters about media literacy in preparation for the 2020 election, despite recent COVID-19 restrictions.

MediaWise has been focused on equipping the younger generation with the tools and resources necessary to make informed political decisions, not just when it comes time to vote but before, sharing, retweeting, and otherwise supporting trending news stories across various social media platforms.

In early March, MediaWise launched a new program, the MediaWise Voter Project, specifically targeting college students who will be voting for the first time -- in the 2020 presidential elections. Along with the program came a new team of media literacy experts made up of 11 college students from across the country who were trained to bring their knowledge back to their communities.

“We're trying to encourage people who may be voting for the first time to be skeptical of everything they see on social media, and to follow a few steps before sharing anything,” said Evan Jones, a Michigan State student and campus correspondent for the newly launched program.

The MediaWise Voter Project describes its mission by three main pillars: first-time voting guides, in-person training, and a social media awareness campaign. When the project was first launched, no one imagined the coronavirus pandemic would have as large of an impact on the world as it did. Thus, MediaWise was forced to adapt and change its game plan.

“One thing we're in the process of right now is gathering as many directors and professors contacts as we can so that we can send a massive email push, trying to get these trainings into classrooms for the fall,” said Jones, who is currently on campus learning how to be a part of the return to school in the fall. “As for the trainings, they just have to move online, you know like doing a Zoom call like we are right now.”

MediaWise has also used the unprecedented time to encourage media literacy and fact-checking habits for all aspects of the news, not just political pursuits.

“It’s not just about being informed for this election. You should have the tools to navigate political discourse, for every election,” said Jones.

The Voter Project recommends that individuals ask themselves a series of questions before they decide to reshare information online. “Who’s bringing me this?” is the first question, according to Jones. It should be followed by, “What examples are they using?” and “What are other sources reporting?”

Click here to view interactive image. Graphic by Sofia Mendes, Source: Poynter MediaWise

“It's as simple as opening up a new tab and searching the keywords for the first post you saw,” said Jones, explaining the simplicity behind the fact-checking process.

The Voter Project has used the three-question approach to shed light on both the misinformation regarding coronavirus and the recent civil rights actions taken by citizens across the country, not just on the upcoming elections.

Its continued activism in the push for media literacy and getting young people to the polls is supported by its increasing following on Tik Tok, Instagram, and Twitter, where they have been actively sharing fact-checking done by campus correspondents and members of MediaWise’s teen fact-checking organization.

“It seems like such a simple thing,” said Jones. “But we could just be so much better at it.”

An episode of John Green's, a MediaWise Voter Project ambassador, Crash Course on navigating digital information created in collaboration with Poynter.

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Sofia Mendes
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Created with an image by Wokandapix - "vote word letters"