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News Literacy: Injury to Bills' Hamlin shows how news consumers determine credibility

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Less than two days into 2023, U.S. news consumers found themselves navigating a major national news story.

During an NFL football game pitting Buffalo at Cincinnati, Bills cornerback Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field, requiring a team of trainers to rush to his aid.

“My husband, son and I were watching the game and, when we saw what happened and I saw that an ambulance was out there, my stomach just dropped,” Erin Gabert said.

Conversation on social media — and in living rooms across the country — quickly picked up, attempting to fill the void left by the then-canceled football game.

“I saw a lot of things when it first happened — people saying he had a heart attack when the reality is they wouldn’t have known yet if he had a heart attack,” said Gabert, who works with the American Heart Association.

Eventually, the Bills took to social media to set the record straight: Hamlin had a cardiac arrest.

News consumers trying to understand the difference can turn to people like Gabert.

“With a heart attack, you have a blockage of an artery,” she said. “So that blood, your blood is not pumping to a part of your heart. When that happens, your heart starts to get damaged and even die in parts of it. Where as cardiac arrest, that’s when you have an electrical issue.”

Hamlin’s health highlighted another issue: Misinformation.

“Lies can be conjured up in seconds and it takes a little bit longer for credible information to circulate,” Dan Evon with the News Literacy Project said.

The project's goal is to make sure news consumers know the difference between real and fake news. He said even in a world where information spreads fast, the first of several tips is to slow down.

“Check for what the source is and where it’s coming from,” Evon said. “If it’s a news organization or if it’s a reporter, click on a person’s bio to see what other sort of content they’ve had.”

Knowing how to spot misinformation is one thing, but Evon said if you’re going to confront others to try to learn alongside the other person.

“Instead of just saying, ‘Here’s a fact check and it says this is false,' walk through the step, walk through where the information comes from, walk through how to look at where the source is,’” Evon said.

Considering the source for good information appears to be something more people are doing following Hamlin’s health scare.

“The page views on our website and on our social media have skyrocketed,” Gabert says. “Our website, the page on our website that talks about hands-on CPR and CPR in general, I believe the percentage of page views in that week went up by about 600%.”