Leah Allen '22
Ms. Margaret Brennan ‘98, Sacred Heart Greenwich alumna and moderator of Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) News’s Sunday Broadcast “Face the Nation,” visited the Sacred Heart Upper School virtually September 23. She presented on the importance of media literacy, avoiding misinformation, and the need for truthful and reliable journalism during this politically polarized time.
During her presentation, Ms. Brennan warned students that as a result of the upcoming 2020 presidential election, the coronavirus pandemic, and recent protests advocating for racial justice, false information has become more prevalent. She explained that in the age of social media, teenagers are most likely to trust biased and manipulated news stories. Ms. Brennan urged her listeners, especially seniors who may be able to vote this fall, to be cautious and think critically about the information that they are consuming.
“Information is power,” Ms. Brennan said. “The media space is a lot more crowded today than it was when I was at Sacred Heart. All of you are being inundated with information from disparaged sources, especially across social media. Everyone is seeking to influence you. You are that key demographic that every brand and every candidate wants to excite and I think many of those targeting you wrongly assume that you have short attention spans and do not care about context or perspective. I know that’s underestimating any Sacred Heart girl.”
Ms. Brennan offered a few key tips for deciphering veritable information from misinformation. She encouraged students to pay attention to the sourcing and origin of the news that they are reading. Additionally, she urged her audience to be wary of confirmation bias by ensuring that their news stories are providing facts, rather than affirming or validating their own point of view. Finally, in order to avoid media bias, Ms. Brennan advised students to be aware of a news story’s context and to consider which demographics media organizations market towards.
She went on to describe the responsibility that she feels, as a journalist, to combat the pervasiveness of false information.
“At times it is very frustrating to feel as though you are wasting time shooting down misinformation,” Ms. Brennan said. “But I also feel like you have to do it. For our program on “Face the Nation” every week, particularly during coronavirus, we have dedicated a large amount of time to doing just that, because I think that right now people are very hungry for fact. You can get an opinion everywhere these days, even when you don’t want one, so I think that people really crave information in a factual sense.”
Before becoming an anchor on “Face the Nation” in 2018, Ms. Brennan served as the White House and Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent throughout the end of the Obama administration and at the beginning of President Donald Trump’s presidency, according to shgreenwich.org. She shared that she looks forward to seeing Sacred Heart graduates grow to be the leaders of the future.
“You all are our next generation, which means that you will be the ones to shape our democracy,” Ms. Brennan said. “That is why we need your voices to be informed and to be really active going into November and beyond, because none of the problems that our country is facing will go away on November 4.”
Featured Image by Leah Allen ’22
This story was originally published on King Street Chronicle on October 2, 2020.