How to Slay Fake News Among the Youth

Mylce Mella with the 300 attendees from Manito National High School, Nagotgot High School, Manito Central School and the Community College of Manito

          Fake News.  It has divided nations, friends, and relatives.  It has gained traction with the growth of social media.

         How do we stem the tide, especially for young people in the rural areas?

          After living and teaching in the province for 3 years I've noticed young people here don't seem interested in fake news.  In fact a greater problem is they don't seem to care about news at all.

          I can't blame them.  They live in a community so far from the noise of Metro Manila.  They are mostly concerned with escaping poverty and acceptance from their peers than with issues like extra-judicial killings, martial law, and fake news.  There are no newspapers (national or local) in the entire town -- which is partly the reason why we started publishing a tri-lingual community newspaper, Manito's Time! with student volunteers.

          Last August however, hope sprang from Mylce Mella, TV host and broadcast journalist of  ABS-CBN Bicol Region.  I had no idea she was a celebrity when I invited her since  I don't have a TV.

          What excited me most was seeing public high school and community college students responding eagerly to a journalism seminar.  Never did it occur to me prior to that day that our youth can be engrossed in a seminar that included a topic on fake news.

Mylce Mella interacting with Cholyn Alcantara, one of our student volunteers, 

          Ms. Mella is not an entertainer, a singer, a model, nor an actress yet she was very popular among the community college and high school students.   We even had to limit registration to make sure we could all fit in our small function hall and balance maximum attendance with maximum learning.

          Not only did she capture their attention but she seemed to capture their imagination and excitement as well.  When you see young people saying "she's my idol"  referring to a broadcast journalist then you should be as floored as I am.  We expect that for movie stars and singers but not for a broadcast journalist.

          She taught us how to distinguish genuine from fake news.  I could hear students echo "look at the credibility of the source" and "verify the information..."

          There is hope.  Fake news is not a dragon that cannot be slayed.  We just need to invest in our youth.  Provide avenues to develop civic mindedness.  Help them believe they can help influence our nation as young as they are, even though they are hundreds of kilometers from the country's political, cultural, and economic center.

Ms. Mella spent the entire afternoon and early evening with the volunteer student journalists of our community newspaper, one of whom even wrote this poem in Bicol

          Apart from all the lessons we learned, I was also encouraged with Ms. Mella's concluding words in the seminar:

           If you succeed in the future, do not forget where you started.  Please come back home…"

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