Press Clips: Top Columnist Starshine Roshell Has a New Passion -- Advancing Media Literacy
For two decades, Starshine Roshell has delighted Santa Barbara readers with her finely crafted weekly column, loaded with laughs, insights and smart takes on topics from the perils of parenting to the assets and liabilities of naked yoga.
Written with openness and authenticity, and never a wasted word, Starshine's column earned her not only the prestige of being referred to by a single name around town, but also the distinction of being voted Santa Barbara's best columnist by Independent readers 11 years in a row - a streak broken only when she openly campaigned for Nick Welsh to win the honor last year.
Now, however, she's cut back her prolific production to one column a month - sometimes less, to the dismay of her legion of fans.
"I'm tired of the sound of my voice," she confessed in a conversation with Newsmakers on Friday.
The sorrows of the pandemic, the George Floyd national reckoning over race and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol -- not to mention recently turning 50 -- all have, led her to reflect on her own "privilege," she said, and to rethink where she channels her considerable journalistic talent.
"I don't want to be the Karen columnist," she added with a laugh.
These days, she's feeling more passionate about taking direct action against the epidemic of misinformation and disinformation online and in social media, the underpinning of a vast political and cultural chasm in a nation where people can no longer agree on basic facts.
So she recently completed a free digital course through the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University on media literacy, ethics and staunching the spread of misinformation, while enlisting as a volunteer in the "Newsrooms to Classrooms" program of the News Literacy Project, aimed at junior high and high school students. She's also been speaking to community groups with a talk called "Truth Decay" and, in her day job as an educational content producer for LinkedIn, has worked on several presentations on the topic,including one called "Spotting Misinformation Online."
And although her column may not appear as frequently, it still packs a punch when it does, as in this recent offering in the Indy, headlined "Enough with the Lies."
"Truth is hard to come by these days. Polls show 10 percent of Americans believe QAnon’s whackadoodle conspiracies about cannibalistic, satanic pedophiles. Intelligence reports show Russian and even Iranian bots have fiddled with our elections. And anyone with a smartphone can now make a deepfake video; a Philadelphia mom recently harassed members of her daughter’s cheerleading team by producing a clipthat supposedly showed them nude, drinking, and smoking.
"Part of the problem is we’ve made social-media giants our information gatekeepers. The job used to fall to journalists whose livelihoods demand strict standards of accuracy, transparency, fairness, independence, and accountability. But Facebook? Twitter? They’re built to prioritize content engagement — regardless of that content’s integrity...
"These issues aren’t going away, but neither are they new. Political theorist Hannah Arendt, a German-born Jew who was imprisoned by the Gestapo, wrote this in 1974 — and her words make me shiver all over again:
"'What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed… If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer.… And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge.
“'And with such a people you can then do what you please'.”
In our discussion, we also touched on several other matters, including the relative merits of optimism vs. pessimism, the push and pull between literary expression and culturally sensitive restrictions on speech and the recent, uncelebrated 15th anniversary of the Meltdown in De La Guerra Plaza. Also: trash talking.