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May 6, 2020

MSU student chosen for national program to educate first-time voters

Evan Jones, a senior at Michigan State University from Tulsa, Oklahoma studying international journalism and history, was selected from more than 100 applicants to participate in the MediaWise Voter Project, a nonprofit and nonpartisan program of The Poynter Institute that aims to teach digital literacy skills to first-time voters in the 2020 election. 

These students represent 11 diverse colleges and universities from across America, who will train their peers how to tell fact from fiction online in advance of the 2020 election. 

The MediaWise Voter Project (#MVP2020) – funded by Facebook – hopes to help 2 million college students prepare and feel confident participating in our democracy, as well as become better informed as they vote for the first time. The project builds on the momentum created by MediaWise, which teaches middle and high school students how to identify factual information, put social media posts in context and avoid sharing misinformation in their social media feeds.

Jones joined fellow campus correspondents at The Poynter Institute for training with the MediaWise team, during which they learned how to spot misinformation online, find reliable information about the election and how to train their peers on these important skills. They will now pass on their knowledge in weekly training sessions and document their work on @MediaWise social media accounts. 

How were you selected for the position?

The selection process for the program required an essay, along with an Instagram story about why I should be chosen for the program and why Michigan State should be represented in a campaign for students to tell fact from fiction online. It's a brand-new program I happened to stumble upon while browsing social media. I learned I was accepted about a week after I applied and was inviting to a training seminar where we were given the insight to train students ourselves back at our campuses. 

What does the selection mean to you, personally? 

This selection means the world to me. I'm incredibly grateful not just to work right now, but to work on a project I'm passionate about. It's amazing for me to study journalism and history while fighting on the side of facts. I mean, information was overwhelming online and on social media before there was a global pandemic. It's a job that gets me out of my comfort zone. I'm posting on social media platforms like TikTok I haven't used before and entering Zoom calls to give presentations. The other students I work with are dedicated and brilliant, we also have outstanding mentors from Poynter and MediaWise.  

What will you be doing as a campus correspondent?

Originally, the plan was to schedule training sessions in classrooms across campus. We were working remotely to begin with, so the transition to an online curriculum just forced us to rethink our strategy. I've already presented the training program in a few virtual journalism classes and it was well-received. I'm working to schedule more training sessions at the start of summer classes and throughout the fall until Election Day. 

The curriculum, started by the Stanford History Education Group, is easy to export. We want students to ask themselves three questions whenever they encounter a claim on the internet: 1) Who's behind the information? 2) What's the evidence? 3) What are other sources saying?

We just started a form any instructor can use to request this training as a part of their classroom (at MSU or any other school).

Simply opening up a new tab and searching for keywords is sometimes all it takes to debunk misinformation.

By: Zach Richardson