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Samford students compete to benefit News Literacy Project

I’m sure at one point in your lifetime you have heard a rumor. I remember hearing some second-grade gossip that our teacher lived at the school – and it made sense in my 7-year-old brain.

Mrs. Marsh was there when I arrived in the morning and there when I left in the afternoon. I theorized with friends that she had a pull-out bed hidden in the closet, ate dinner with the rest of the teachers in the cafeteria and rollerbladed through the halls after school hours.  

To this day, I do not have evidence that supports this theory, but I also do not have any that refutes it, either, though my 22-year-old brain leans more toward the belief that Mrs. Marsh had a life outside Kennedy Elementary.  

Rumors are entertaining, at best, but lead to harm and distrust, especially when they go unchecked. Information has never been consumed and spread faster than it is today. We go from scrolling through cat videos to footage of natural disasters in mere seconds. Rumors, gossip, misinformation and disinformation are constantly clogging our ever-following stream of news. Heard A Rumor is here to help.  

No, we are not a gossip site. Quite the opposite. Heard A Rumor is an educational initiative created by Samford University public relations students Anna Baldwin, Bailey Baldwin, Claire Owens, and me for the Public Relations Student Society of America’s Bateman National Case Study Campaign. 

Since 1973, the Public Relations Student Society of America has challenged college students from across the country to research, plan, implement, and evaluate strategic promotional and educational goals for real clients. The national competition allows students to build a functional public relations campaign from the ground-up.  

“The Bateman campaign has been the most real-world experience I’ve had during my time at Samford in a class,” said Owens. “I’ve gotten to pitch to the media, conduct research, help create branding, and so many other things that I know will serve me well in my future career.” 

The winning campaign is chosen by the client and implemented into their practice. This year’s client is nonpartisan news education platform, The News Literacy Project.  

Celebrating 15 years of fighting for facts, The News Literacy Project was founded in 2008 after Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Alan C. Miller, visited his daughter’s middle school classroom to discuss his career in journalism. Miller recognized there was a need to teach students and parents how to be news literate in this era of information overload.  

Heard A Rumor promotes The News Literacy Project’s mission to foster a more news-literate America. Through our four-week educational course, we provide tools that help you distinguish “rumor” from fact. Participants who complete the course become certified “Fact Junkies” and learn to spot misinformation, disinformation, opinion pieces and advertisements in news sources.   

“When infinite information is at our fingertips, it has never been more important to learn how to discern what is news and what sources to trust,” said Dr. Betsy Emmons, an associate professor at Samford University and immediate past president of the Alabama chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. 

From busting bots to actively seeking quality journalists (like our girl Amy) and cultivating conversations with friends and family about the importance of understanding misinformation, “Fact Junkies” are vital to the news literacy movement. Alabamians are vital to the news literacy movement. You are vital to the news literacy movement.  

We are proud to represent Alabama in this national competition and hope you discover the power to stop misinformation. 

“Instead of becoming frustrated, which is easy to do, we all have a responsibility to educate urselves about news literacy as well as forces that can manipulate us,” Emmons said. “AI and bots are not going away, so we combat that with knowledge.”

Avery Ketcherside is a senior at Samford University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in journalism mass communications. Heard A Rumor is competing as a finalist in the Public Relations Student Society of America’s annual Bateman National Case Study Campaign. Learn more about Heard A Rumor’s campaign here.

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