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I was lucky enough to be asked to speak at the Humboldt County Library’s annual volunteer appreciation brunch last week about the importance of real news in the era of “fake news.”

Unluckily for my poor audience, I talked about Greek poetry instead.

We’re talking about Odysseus, of course. He’s just out to get home in one piece. And to bring his shipmates home. And to teach us about media literacy:

• Odysseus gave Troy the Trojan Horse. Mark Zuckerberg gave us Facebook. Both purport to be free, and ask you to take them inside your home. Every media company that offers you a product is selling a part of you to someone else. Some sell your attention, some sell your data, some sell both. Know who you’re inviting in.

• Odysseus recognized that all the Lotus-Eaters had to offer was … lotus. When it comes to media, the easiest way to keep an audience engaged is not to keep them lethargic; it’s to scare or enrage them. Preferably both. We’re not meant to be kept in a constant state of fear, hate and anxiety any more than we’re meant to be dulled into a state of lethargy. Change the channel. Vary your media diet.

• When Odysseus blinds the cyclops, he has a little fun at the poor guy’s expense, through clever use of a punny pseudonym. In the end, he can’t resist shouting out his real name. This teaches the cyclops a very valuable lesson about the importance of proper attribution: Treat anonymous sources and pen names with the appropriate amount of skepticism.

•When Odysseus orders his crew to stuff their ears and bind him to the mast so he can safely hear the sirens’ song, he’s practicing basic media literacy by checking his own bias — in this case, the bias of steering one’s ship onto the rocks.

We all find ourselves attempting to navigate a sea of information. There are more stories in the world now then ever before. All any of us can do is be mindful of how we’re telling them. Or sharing them on Facebook.

So: Demand more of your local media. Demand more of your newspaper, too.

Bring your shipmates home.

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