Deconstructing Fake News With Mediawise’s Heaven Taylor-Wynn - Jen Hatmaker

Deconstructing Fake News With Mediawise’s Heaven Taylor-Wynn

Episode 04

Remember when newspapers and 3 TV channels were the only ways you consumed the news? That world will never be a reality for our kids—and it’s up to us to teach them to think critically about where they’re getting information and who may be trying to feed it to them. And get excited, parents, because we have a killer partner in this effort: it’s called MediaWise, and it’s a media literacy project that aims to teach 1 million teens how to sort fact from fiction online by 2020. Jen talks to journalist and MediaWise member Heaven Taylor-Wynn, who schools us on ways we can teach our kids (and ourselves) how to sniff out fake news and gives us the skinny on some of the new scams we need to watch out for (anyone who’s seen the “deep fake” video of Ron Swanson on the opening credits of Full House knows what we’re talking about). We learn how keyword searches take the sensation out of crazy headlines and how “lateral reading” helps us give a more full context to a story. Heaven’s right when she says, “The information we consume directly affects the decisions we make.” And if we can equip our kids to navigate digital waters successfully, we’re setting them up to have healthy media diets and make well-informed choices for life.

Episode Transcript

Narrator:  Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people every week on this podcast. Thanks for listening! We hope you enjoy the show.

Jen:   Hey, everybody. Jen Hatmaker here, your delighted hostess of the For the Love Podcast. Super glad you’re here today.

Super glad you’re here for this whole series called For the Love of Truth Tellers. Laura, and Amanda and I just brainstormed this just around and around and around, because it’s just such a weird time right now with misinformation and fake news and deep fakes. It is not even just a luxury anymore to become media literate. This is important. It’s important to our democracy. It’s important to, frankly, our relationships, like, with our family. How many times have you had a knock-down argument with somebody that you love, that you deeply care about, over a piece of news going around on Facebook that’s not even true, right? Or not even real, or it’s inflated in such a way that it’s just created this unreasonable tension point? It just matters right now.

So since we’re spending so much time in this series educating ourselves on media literacy, online and off, I thought we could benefit today—because I know who you are, I know who my listeners are—from learning how we don’t just educate ourselves, but our kids. So calling all parents in any way, calling all teachers, calling all mentors, today’s episode is how to teach our kids everything that we’re talking about in this series, because obviously this is something they have and will continue to have to engage with on a daily basis for the rest of their lives.

So today we are talking to the delightful Heaven Taylor-Wynn. She’s a journalist from a company called MediaWise. So you maybe have heard of it. MediaWise, it’s a groundbreaking digital literacy project, and its mission is to teach 1 million teens how to sort fact from fiction on the internet by 2020. Baked into their mission, half of those million teens, at least, they are aiming to help kids from underserved communities. It’s a really wonderful mission for all of us, really.

This is good work and important work, because our kids are digital natives. You know? I mean, they have grown up around iPhones and screens. This is the only world they know. But research is showing us that most teenagers still have trouble navigating the information they see online, whether it’s the fake news we hear so much about, or viral hoaxes on Instagram, or even how to spot a sponsored post and just knowing what that means, just knowing how to consume digital content in a way that is really smart and savvy.

So MediaWise is bringing all of this to teens via in-person events, on social media. I think it’s a great resource for us as we try to educate ourselves and then thus our families about what Elizabeth Dias in our last episode called our “media diet.” Right? I also love, and you will too, that MediaWise has a couple of great ambassadors. They’ve got NBC’s Lester Holt, who is beloved. Speaking of beloved, YA author, all-around good human, John Green. Just absolutely a fan fave. So I am super glad to hear that MediaWise has their stamp of approval and their partnership.

I can’t wait for you to hear from our guest from MediaWise today, Heaven: Heaven Taylor-Wynn. She has got a lot to teach us today, so just buckle up. There’s just so many practical things in this interview that are within the reach of all of us—easy to teach, easy to share. Heaven is a multimedia storyteller. She’s a 2018 Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg. She went to school at the University of Florida, their college of journalism and communications. This is her stuff. She’s worked at writing and producing pieces for the North Central Florida PBS, their NPR affiliates, and then going back to her college days she worked on the student paper for the University of Florida.

She is bright, she is smart. She is shiny. She is savvy. I learned a lot today. And I took some notes while she was talking about, frankly, I know that they are teaching kids, but I learned some stuff today. I learned about how to be a better media consumer, and so this service has legs. It really, really does. So we definitely want to put this in front of our kids, we want them to follow MediaWise, but we should too. You’ll see why. You’ll see why as this interview rolls out.

I’m really pleased to share my conversation with the very smart Heaven Taylor-Wynn.

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Jen: Okay, Heaven, I am absolutely delighted to have you on the show today. Thank you so much for making time for us.

Heaven: Absolutely. I’m so happy to be here and to be spreading the word about MediaWise and to let you know what we’re working on.

Jen: I know. As we were brainstorming this series, it’s just so incredibly timely, not just for kids and adolescents and teens, but for grownups too. I think we actually all have a lot to learn from what you have to say today. But we were looking around at the horizon like, “Who’s doing a good job right now? Who’s teaching us well? Who’s leading us well?” Particularly for our kids, I have five kids and they are from 13 to 21, so they’re your target demographic.

Heaven: Absolutely.

Jen: I can’t wait to put your work in front of them. So happy to know about it.
So look, I filled in our listeners a little bit about what you do. But I’d love to hear first just a little bit more about MediaWise. Who are you focused on helping, and in general—we’re going to dial more into it in a minute—but how are you doing that?

Heaven: Sure. Overall MediaWise is a digital media literacy project that’s the result of a partnership between the Poynter Institute, which is a journalism school in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the Stanford History Education Group. We are funded by, and we are part of the Google News Initiative.

So with all of that being said, our goal is to reach 1,000,000 teenagers by 2020. We want half of those students to be from underserved communities, because typically they may not have the resources or the access to get this information that we’re trying to get to them.

We want to teach them how to tell fact from fiction online. In addition to that, we want them to be able to tell their friends and learn how to do it themselves.

Jen: Yes, absolutely. Frankly, we need to hear this too as their parents, because we’re getting duped just as often.

It’s just as hard for us to learn to suss it out, and we don’t have any predecessors to teach us how to teach them. So I just see you fitting a place right now in culture that is so, so important.

One thing I know as a mom of five teens and just post-teens is that just they are inhaling videos. That is absolutely how my kids are getting their information. Is this what you’re seeing? Are they getting their news or whatever from the YouTube stars and from internet personalities? I’m curious how Gen Z feels about finding trusted sources of information. Who do they trust? Who are they listening to right now?

Heaven: Yeah, well like you just said, it’s hard for not just teens but for adults as well—it’s so much content, so much information coming at us all the time. But some new research just came out recently from Common Sense Media, and they concur with what you’re finding. Teens are getting most of their information from social media and from YouTube. A lot of times, a new growing platform is TikTok, but I’d say there’s less news on there.

But generally, teens are turning away from the traditional media sphere and turning to things that they look at all the time.

But most of the time they’re getting it from celebrities and influencers and people they can kind of relate to, people who they’re interested in following and seeing what they’re doing on their day to day. So I would certainly say YouTube and social media are very key and core to where they’re getting their info from, and that’s a big reason why we live on social media.

MediaWise, literally our platform essentially is Instagram. So part of what we do to get the information out there is through our teen fact-checking network. So we have teens from across the nation creating content by teens for teens, essentially, finding claims online and fact checking them. In the fact checks, they walk you through the steps of how they achieved the rating that they did, whether it’s legit or not legit. That’s the words we kind of like to use.

Some of us, sometimes we do it, but most of the time it’s the teens doing it because they like to hear from each other. That’s the best way to get through to someone is someone they can connect with, they can relate with. That’s part of the reason I think why teens are so interested in getting stuff from these influencers that they’re following.

Jen:  So right now on the show, as I mentioned, we are in a series about people who are intent on finding the truth, what’s true out there, and then speaking it pretty boldly even if it costs them. I think a few years ago, I’m not even sure this is a series we would’ve even thought about having as urgently as we did now, as we are doing now. I think, I mean, obviously, the 2016 election showed just how insidious information can be in the wrong hands, and how false information and fake news and . . . It can do very real, very lasting damage.

I know addressing this is probably at least central to some of your work, so I wonder if you would help give us some context based on you have so much information at your fingertips. This is your data, this is your intel. What happened in 2016? How easily do you think it could happen again, or is that inevitable that is going to happen again?

Heaven: Well, 2016, it seems like it was almost four years ago at this point, and there’s so much that has happened since then. So I think what we should be more concerned with is the efforts that are being taken today to kind of combat the insidious information. Because the key thing I like to say in presentations is, “The information that we consume directly affects the decisions that we make.”

So platforms that these teens are getting their info from, for example, Facebook and YouTube, and even others, they’re launching various fact-checking partnerships with organizations, not MediaWise particularly, but some similar—for example, Politifact and other members of the fact checking sphere internationally. They’re launching fact-checking partnerships with them to ensure that this insidious information isn’t spreading quite as rapidly and quite as far as it may have back then.

Misinformation and disinformation is being created by bad actors out there. There are people out there who it is their job and their desire to create misinformation and to spread it and to mislead people. It is becoming more and more sophisticated. For example, a prime example of that is deep fakes. Are you familiar with deep fakes?

Jen: Yeah. Yes, I’m watching that right now. It’s crazy.

Heaven: Yeah, so for anyone who’s unfamiliar, deep fakes are videos created through the use of artificial intelligence, and essentially what they do is make it look like someone, usually someone prominent or influential, is saying something they are not saying. So that is the one thing that’s becoming even more sophisticated as we approach this 2020 election cycle. So we need to be cognizant and aware and more vigilant that these are things that are out there that can be misleading to us, and that people are creating in efforts to mislead us.

Another example is bots. Back in the day, there used to be pop-up bot accounts on Twitter or on other social media platforms that would just spew out misinformation or just try to distract you or discourage you, or start up conversations. Now they’re more sophisticated in that they’re trying to build and grow audiences, and they’re mimicking real people’s accounts.

So generating that audience, getting that following, and the whole time you may not know this person, so to speak, but you’re engaging with them because they’re posting interesting content and you’re wanting to keep up with them. Then maybe here and there they’ll drop a political meme, or maybe here and there they’ll drop something a little controversial. So at that point it’s kind of almost too late, because they’ve gotten your trust or your followers’ trust.

So yeah, those are some things to look out for, just a couple of things.

Jen: So kind of getting into the granular work of what it is you do, and specifically what it is you teach, can you walk us through the way a journalist or a professional fact checker verifies information?

Heaven: Sure. So as I mentioned earlier, one of our partners in this project is the Stanford History Education Group. So through their development, they came up with three questions that we love to ask ourselves when we’re approaching a fact check. The first is, “Who is behind the information?” This is pretty much key in figuring out anything if it’s legitimate or not, because a lot of times when you figure out who’s behind the information, you then discover what their motivations are, what they have to gain, what they have to lose by people disseminating misinformation and believing it and acting upon it.

The next question is, “What is the evidence?” Is there any evidence out there that supports or denies these claims that are being made online or in real life, or wherever.

The third one is, “What are other sources saying?” So I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of times when big news happens, a thousand different news outlets will report it differently. It’s imperative that as a savvy news consumer in maintaining a healthy news diet, that we’re consuming several different types of news sources so as a consumer, we can discern what is true and what is not on our own.

Because at the end of the day, like I said before, who’s behind the information? Everyone has some type of motivation or point to get across or platform they want to push, and that’s just the way it is. It’s not necessarily good nor bad, but we need to be cognizant that folks have their own agendas, and it is what it is.

So in asking those questions, we have a couple of tips we like to use. One of them is a keyword search, and it’s just what it sounds like: hopping on a search engine. We typically use Google and just search in a couple words related to the claim, and seeing what comes up. That essentially leads you into lateral reading. That’s when you get off of the page you’re on and find additional sources that are talking about what you’re trying to research. When we read books, when we read articles and things, we read vertically. We read up and down the page. Lateral reading is getting you off of that page onto various other tabs and seeing what other sources are saying.

Another thing we like to incorporate with that is Wikipedia. Now, Wikipedia may not be the most reliable source for everything, but there are clearances and editorial clearances you have to reach in order to just go on and change something. So for example, you probably couldn’t go on a really popular political figure’s page and just change it, because they have various locks that only certain people can edit now. So it’s not as easy as just hopping on there and editing.

Another thing with that is almost all of the points that are made on Wikipedia’s pages have citations that can be found at the bottom of the page, and so those can serve as really good jumping off points if you don’t know something about a subject. You can go look at those primary sources and continue that lateral reading and try to figure out more information and get more detailed stuff.

Jen: That’s great. I mean, those are really great tips. Obviously this all takes a little bit longer.

Heaven: Oh for sure.

Jen: But it’s just important. It’s so important. I mean, I know even I consider myself a pretty savvy media consumer, pretty eyes wide open to the tricks of the trade out there right now. And even I have picked up on a piece of salacious news or really provocative or incredibly sensational. And just the additional step of maybe two minutes on a lateral read, just Googling it in, what’s everybody else saying, it’s debunked pretty quickly. Or I see that, “Oh this was really inflated.” So it is a little bit more of a time commitment, but you are right that something kind of as simple as going one foot deeper into the search, it can matter. It really can pull you out of the mire of biased reporting in one way or another.

Jen:  It’s obviously no secret that the news industry in general is just night and day from what it was 20 years ago. I mean just the 24 hour news cycle, the way in which it’s presented, it’s just a completely different beast now. So 20 years ago we had tabloids, of course, but nothing to the degree that we have today thanks to all these clickbait factories, which is just a money maker.

So what would you say is the difference between a journalist, with kind of impeccable ethics and journalistic integrity, and a writer who’s basically paid to fill content factories with clickbait? Because sometimes they look the same, and specifically, would you say there are particular sites we need to watch out for, or clues or whatever?

Heaven: Mm-hmm. It’s interesting that you said that they look the same, because another one of the tips we teach is spotting native ads.

We see them all the time but probably don’t think much about it, but a native ad is something that looks like the content you’re consuming and it’s native to the platform. So when you’re scrolling on Instagram and every now and again you might see some of those promoted posts or sponsored posts, those are native ads. That’s something we like to teach. As well as on articles, on other websites. For example, Refinery 29 is an example that we use sometimes in the presentation. They’ll have keywords like “paid content.” So those are some things that you can use to spot those kind of native advertisements.

But typically when you’re trying to suss out whether someone’s a legitimate journalist or writing sponsored content, you have to consume the whole piece and read beyond the headline and figure out, “Are they just seeking the truth and reporting it?” That’s essentially a journalist’s job. Sometimes it can feel like you’re trying to be sold something, and sometimes it’s really hard to tell, because like I said, when they’re native advertisements, they’re native to the platform and they want to feel like legitimate articles and news.

But at the end of the day, everyone wants you to click on their link or read the article, and that’s the name of the game, whether they’re a journalist or creating those clickbait-y type of articles. It’s really up to you to try to suss it out.

A couple of keywords we like to look out for with those sponsored content types of pieces are promotedadvertisementsponsoreda word/a message by, those type of things. But you have to just do the diligence and try to figure it out, and also it can be helpful if you look at who wrote it, find their social media pages and see what their titles are. Again, these are additional steps that you have to take, but sometimes it’s worth it when you’re trying to decide whether you should retweet or share something or not, practicing that click restraint and really figuring out, getting to the bottom of, What is this information?

Jen: What would you say is the lower hanging fruit? So for example, going back to the old tabloid example, we know still when we look at the cover of a tabloid in the grocery store aisle, it’s obvious. It’s so clear. We just look at that and know, “This is not real. We’re going to take this with a grain of salt. All these headlines are untrue.” It has this very clear aesthetic. Are there any fake stories where their cover, so to speak, gives them away online, like, in a digital world?

Heaven: Well, I think it’s not that simple anymore, because truth is not always black and white, especially online because things are spun out of control. There can be elements of truth, and that’s a lot of times what we find in our fact checking with the content that we make. We have a rating called “Needs Context.” So when you’re looking at these headlines across social media and online, a lot of times they’re there to grab your attention, but it’s blown out of proportion.

Another key thing is when there are fake websites or these just popup sites that kind of just make articles just to spin out this clickbait-y and fake content, something we can look for often is spelling errors. Also, grammatical errors, dead giveaway also, because that might indicate that a bot or AI is writing the article or creating this content.

Another thing we can look for is weird looking account handles. We typically know, if you use social media enough, you kind of can tell if someone came up with that account name or not, or if it’s oddly generated, just something to keep your eye out for. This goes back to “who’s behind the information?”

Also, you need to look at URLs of websites. Sometimes there can be things that mimic sites that we’re familiar with. As an example, there’s, right? So that’s obviously trying to mimic ABC News, and that’s not their actual URL. So they like to mimic and get the idea in your mind that they are this legacy brand or something legitimate, but you have to just use a very vigilant eye and look out for those things.

Jen: So going back to something you just said, like who’s behind it, I’m curious if you think we should only trust legacy brands. Even then, how trustworthy are they? Because over the past couple of decades, the big legacy brands I grew up with have been snapped up by huge corporate entities like, for example, Jeff Bezos buying The Washington Post, or Disney purchasing ABC, or Roger Ailes launching Fox News. The up links have changed. And so I wonder should we be thinking more critically about who’s funding these brands, and the skin that they have in the game, the perspective that they are imprinting now onto their outlets? And how and maybe even how much should we judge their editorial coverage now?

Heaven: Well, I want to say behind all of these brands, whether they’re the legacy ones, before or after they were purchased by whomever, behind all of this stuff is humans. Sometimes some content is generated by AI, like I mentioned before, but those were programmed by humans. At the end of the day, humans are fallible. We all make mistakes, and we all are prone to errors at some point or another.

So with that being said, these legacy brands can make mistakes as well. Though they say they aim for accuracy in journalism, essentially they seek truth and report it, we can make mistakes too. But I can’t tell you who to trust. That’s really up to you and up to your own judgment, but what I can do is to arm you with the tools to figure out who you can trust.

So what I would recommend is using those tips I mentioned before and taking note of patterns in the reporting and the writing to help you better decide whether these sources that are years and years and years established, if they are sources you want to trust. I absolutely think we should continue to think critically and be skeptical of nearly everything.

Certainly if I’m reading something for, just as an example, The New York Times, chances are I’m going to be more trustworthy and a little less critical of it than a blog I’ve never heard before, but I’m certainly going to still examine it with a very critical eye and if, need be, apply those other skills such as lateral reading, getting off the page, and checking what other sources are saying about a similar story. Because it’s up to me, before I share something and before I move forward with a conclusion of if something is legitimate or not. It’s up to me to make sure that I can stand on it and say, “Yeah, I think this is true and I feel comfortable sharing this in the world and in the media sphere.”

Jen: That’s good.

You mentioned AI, and just everything, faster internet speeds, better hardware. Just the sophistication of creating doctored media is only going to increase. That’s just a deep well of innovation around disseminating wrong information.

I wonder if you are noticing, are you paying attention to, or maybe you just suspect, do you see any future trends maybe coming down the pike that might help us combat those things? Do you see people working on really interesting ways to verify or to authenticate, or do you think media itself will be begin building in some safeguards or checks and balances?

Heaven: Well, it’s so interesting that you ask that question, because I was just reading this article from Axios literally yesterday. It’s called, “Misinformation Haunts the 2020 Primaries.” It was talking about several of those things, how bots are making more convincing fake pages, and they’re trying to build up that audience, like I mentioned earlier.

Essentially, we’re doing the dirty work for them, because we are . . . Well not us necessarily, but humans are interacting with these pages and are led to believe that what they’re sharing is legitimate. The bots are not having to do much at that point. Along those same lines, they have these huge followings that they’re growing because they’re posting otherwise innocuous content and sneaking in some harmful posts here and there.

Jen: It’s interesting. Specifically on Twitter, I have learned to spot the bot accounts that are trying to engage me, and really primarily very salacious ways, really combative. I learned it’s not that hard to go to their home page on their Twitter account and just do a quick scroll, and really quickly you can figure out, Oh, this is a bot, this isn’t a real person. It’s not a real ID. It’s not a real bio. It’s not a real picture. All of the content is one-note. And so that for me is just an automatic block. Not going to engage it, not going to put any fuel in that fire. It is a block and release.

Heaven: That’s a really good practice, because another one of the things from the Axios article was saying the bots like to engage with people who have high followings—influencers—because again, doing their work for them. If your followers are seeing that you’re engaging with this bot, they might go to their page and go take a look at what they’re spreading. It’s a downward spiral from there. So that’s another method that they’re using is the bots are engaging with people with high followings and trying to get their followers to see what they’re trying to share. It’s all interconnected, in a way.

Jen: Absolutely.

Kind of turning the corner back around to your specific line of work with kids, which is so great, so important. In my generation, us in our 40s or so, we just knew that technology and social media was outpacing us. It was quicker than we could figure out what to do with it. We knew that our kids are going to face challenges that we don’t even know how to manage, much less know how to teach them how to manage it. So I can’t tell you what a relief it is to me and how excited I am to see companies like MediaWise rising up and kind of standing in the gap here. Because our kids are, this is the only culture they know. They don’t have a Before.

So obviously despite its craziness, at its heart, for me personally, the internet is mostly a wonderful place. We’ve used it to learn. We’ve used it to expand our horizons. We’ve used it to connect well and meaningfully. We’ve used it to raise money and raise awareness. I mean, it can be a really wonderful place to be, so I don’t think any of us want to take all that away from our kids. I don’t think we want to just say, “This is all bad and we want to shut it down. How can we figure out how to unplug?”

So how would you say that parents help their kids with their critical thinking skills that are growing—they’re interested in the world, they’re interested in culture, they’re paying attention—without stifling their curiosity or clamping down too hard or overreacting? Do you have any best practices for parents who are trying to guide their kids through the melee of online culture?

Heaven: Well for one, of course, follow MediaWise.

We are teaching on our Instagram, as well as in our in-school events. We like to share various, like I was saying, the fact-checks the teens do. We like to share different project updates.

Additionally, MediaWise has a curriculum with Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) that’s coming out in January of next year. That will be free and available for download from SHEG’s website. So parents can actually sit down with their kids and utilize these lessons, have an open and honest dialogue, and challenge each other to think critically and judge information themselves.

>>> Access SHEG’s Civic Online Reasoning curriculum, here.

Of course, just be real and honest about the reality of internet in the world today. Like you said, the internet is generally a wonderful place for the most part, but there are the bad actors out there, so parents and kids need to have these honest dialogues and just keep it real.

Jen: That’s great. I’m excited about that curriculum over at Stanford. That is timely. Can teachers listening right now get their hands on it too? Because this is also now a big part of classroom curriculum.

Heaven: Yeah, it will be free and available to download for everyone. We are encouraging educators to download it and utilize it in their classrooms, but even today there are portions of it that can be looked at and downloaded online. But the full expansive, entire curriculum will be available in the coming months.

Then also, we also have a Crash Course series with one of our ambassadors, John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars and Looking For Alaska. Another way that we get the information out there is through our ambassador program. So John Green is just one of them, but he’s so dynamic. He did this whole 10-episode crash course series called Navigating Digital Information. It’s on YouTube right now, totally free, and it teaches a lot of the stuff that will be in the curriculum, and a lot of the tips that we practice.

But I think just the way that John Green speaks and breaks it down and just keeps it simple will be a great discussion point for parents and kids to have with one another to really analyze and talk about these different internet phenomena that gets the misinformation out there.

Jen: He is such a great leader and just advocate for young adults. I respect and admire him so much.

Jen: Okay, let’s wrap this up. I am asking these questions of everybody in our Finding the Truth series, and so this can just off the top of your head.

So here’s first question. Who is a truth teller that you admire? So it could be somebody modern or somebody from history.

Heaven: There’s so many people that come to mind.

Jen: Me too.

Heaven: But just given something that happened recently, I’m thinking Nikole Hannah-Jones from The New York Times Magazine. She recently just put out this 1619 Project that goes back to slavery and talking about the 400 years since the first Africans came over. So I’m just starting to take a dive into that, and it’s incredible.

Jen: Oh yes, me too. I’ve just helicoptered down and touched down on that project to just get a feel for it, and it is outstanding. I mean, she should be commended for her work here. Well, listeners we’ll link over to that so you can see what we’re talking about. It’s really amazing.

Okay, how about this. Who do you think is one of the most insightful or important thinkers right now? Somebody who when they speak, you make sure that you’re listening?

Heaven: Hmm. I think I’m going to go with Ava DuVernay, film maker.

Jen: Oh, me too!

Heaven: All of her pieces, they just . . . I love it because it’s not her speaking literally, but it is her work speaking for her. So each of her things I’ve consumed—When They See Us, 13th, Selma, A Wrinkle in Time—they’re just so dynamic, and I think she’s just amazing. Especially considering she started her career generally speaking a little later on, after years and years working in PR. I think she’s just fabulous.

Jen: Yeah. She is a force right now. I like how you said she’s showing. Her work is just showing for what it is. Really, really powerful leader. I’m paying a lot of attention to her too.

But here’s the last question, we actually ask every guest every series this question, and you can answer it however you want. It can be a really serious answer or it can be absolutely ridiculous. It just runs the gamut on this show. The question is this: “What is saving your life right now?”

Heaven: Okay, this is kind of funny. I love babies on Instagram, so celebrity babies, like Chrissy Teigen and John Legend‘s kids, love them. Gabrielle Union‘s kids. There’s this family I follow that adopted this little girl, they love sharing their adoption story. I just love seeing smiling, cute, happy babies on Instagram. Just so pure, just if you’re having a bad day, a smiling, happy, laughing baby will always make it better. So that’s what I—

Jen: Oh my gosh, do you follow Ayesha Curry?

Heaven: Yes! Oh my gosh.

Jen: Her babies, I just can’t handle it.

Heaven: I’m literally watching them grow up. Riley and Ryan are so big now!

Jen: I know. I’m with you. Sometimes when a beautiful, delicious baby pops up on Insta, I’m like, “You know what? Everything’s going to be okay. The world is going to keep going. We’re going to make it, universe. We’ve got this still.” I love it.

Heaven, thank you so much for coming on today. I am proud of you. I’m proud of what you’re doing. I’m so grateful to have somebody coming alongside of me as a parent and beginning to just help us steer the ship here so that our kids can be intelligent consumers of media in general, especially as they hit young adulthood, especially as they’re preparing to vote.

This matters. It’s such a big deal. Can you just tell my listeners quickly how they can find out more about everything we’ve talked about? Where do they find MediaWise? Where do they find everything that you and I have talked about?

Heaven: Yeah. MediaWise is on nearly every social media platform. It’s @mediawise. We’re on FacebookTwitterInstagram. We just got a TikTok recently. We’re on YouTube too. Not really on Snapchat right now, but @mediawise. You can learn more about MediaWise at

Jen: That’s great. So listeners, you follow them, and then have your kids follow them. That’s their aim, that’s their target demographic, and that is exactly who they’re serving.

So I’m delighted to have met you and so happy to know about your work and positively putting it in front of my kids. And grateful in advance for your help in teaching them how to be intelligent and thoughtful when it comes to everything they’re consuming, so good job you. Thanks for being on the show today, and thanks so much for your time.

Heaven: Thank you for having me.

I want to really quickly let everyone know, we are accepting applications for our teen fact-checking network, so any teens 13 to 18 years old who want to be a part of MediaWise and help spread the good word and debunk claims online and get paid for it, feel free to check us out on social media. The link will be in our bios.

Jen: That is awesome. I will make sure that we link up to that in the transcript too. Thanks for dropping that in.

All right, thanks, Heaven. Great to meet you.

Jen: All right you guys. Good stuff. Good stuff. This is what we have to do. This is the diligence required of our generation. We did not ask to be, essentially, the first generation to parent kids through media culture and help them decode their media diet, but here we are. So we need to take this seriously. We need to pay attention. We need to do the work. It’s worth it. It’s just worth it. It’s worth it to dig down to the bottom of all this for what is actually true. I believe this is a real path forward for us as we are so polarized along the fault lines of sensationalized media and journalism. These are some of the guideposts to bring us back to one another, to bring us back to what’s just true, what’s just actually real and going on.

So grateful to Heaven today for her expertise, for her enthusiasm, and for her role in teaching the next generation. So they will be doing a better job hopefully at all this than we are, you guys.

Lots to digest in this series. We find this important, we find it interesting, we find it thoughtful, and we hope you do too. We love your feedback. You’ve given us a lot on this one, particularly. So thank you for listening week in and week out. You continue to be, gosh, like the most loyal podcast community ever. I cannot get over it. So if you haven’t already, go subscribe, that way you’ll never miss an episode and it just shows up for you.

As always, super delighted to bring this to you every week on behalf of Laura, our producer, on behalf of Amanda, my assistant. We partner in all of this work, and we’re absolutely glad to do it. So thanks for listening every week, and we’ll see you next time.

Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!

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