Reading skills 2.0 – why is it important to be a critical reader

It all started since journalism has been viewed as a ‘two-way process’. Individuals are no longer just consumers; they are content producers who capture real-time events as they happen. More often nowadays we see professional TV channels that source YouTube and videos that have gone viral and captured the moment as it happened. And that is because technology has put a camera in the hand of the consumer. Creating and exposing their own content through the social networks gives unprecedented power to individuals, as independent media producers.

Let’s just imagine for a second we are on a ship which day by day risks getting sunk because of the amount of information that is invading us from all the corners. We need to learn how to keep the balance and find our way back to the shore by sorting what is relevant to each of us. This is what Felix Salmon explained in his article “Teaching journalists to read” written in 2010, but which proves to be more accurate than ever, even six years after its publication.

Read between the lines 

Do you remember the ‘skim and scan‘ technique given by the teachers when helping you to pass the IELTS exam? Use it. As often as you can. Quick reminder: time is precious.

Be curious

If you decide to procrastinate for another couple of hours on Facebook or Twitter, at least do it right and follow Salmon’s piece of advice:

If I were hiring, the first thing I’d look at would be the prospective employee’s Twitter feed. What are they linking to? What are they reading? If they’re linking to great stuff from a disparate range of sources, if they’re following smart people on Twitter, if they’re engaged in the conversation — that’s hugely valuable. More valuable, in fact, than being able to put together an artfully-constructed lede.

Linking goes hand in hand with reading

According to Salmon`s articles, many journalists are very bad at this simply because they prefer to copy the information from a press release and publish another redundant material without being aware of the valuable insight that linking can bring both for the reader and journalist. This is what he calls ‘commodity news‘. Of course, in order to go for linking, you need to have developed a reading culture.

So, folks, read, read and read.

At the end of the day, you still need to provide original content

Just because meanwhile you have learned how to be a critical reader and how to link properly, that doesn’t mean you are out of responsibilities. Use your creativity and your resources wisely in order to be remarked.

One conclusive example is the story of Brandon Stanton, the founder of Humans of New York who raised $700,000 for 11 Syrian refugee families  in three days through his site and Facebook page.

All in all, there is no mystery about how fast the news is spread and how mass-media is permanently evolving. Since nowadays communication is oriented towards the principle ‘many speak to many’ instead of “one speaks to many”, it is up to us to sort the information, comment or react to whatever we are interested in and develop our critical reading skills.


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