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Fake news in an ever-changing media environment

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by Jeff Kocur

Title

Fake news in an ever-changing media environment

Description
In the 21st century, we choose the media sources we consume in an increasingly passive manner. Stories show up in our news feeds and social media feeds, or in forwarded emails; often we don’t know the sources, or the sources look familiar, but they are from nefarious sources. Explore the changing nature of how we consume news, and help your students choose their information wisely.

Objectives

  • Students will define the terms fake news and post-truth
  • Students will determine a difference between inaccuracies in news media and fake news
  • Students will explore some of the forces changing the way media is consumed and created.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Length

50 minutes

Materials / resources

Article: https://www.wired.com/2017/02/journalism-fights-survival-post-truth-era/

Video clip: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/post-truth-word-of-the-year-2016-oxford-dictionaries/

Newseum: E.S.C.A.P.E. poster from Newseum

Worksheet (below)

As media lines ‘Blur,’ we all become editors 

Lesson step-by-step

  1. Introduction (10 minutes)
    Begin the lesson by showing the following video clip illustrating “post-truth” as the Oxford dictionary word of the year.

Share this definition on a screen:  “Post-Truth: relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Ask students to discuss the following questions with a partner:

  • What is one potential consequence of a post-truth era?
  • Define the difference between fake news and inaccuracies in reporting. Students should try to come up with their own definitions for discussion as a class.
  1. Article and assessment (40 minutes)

Share the Wired.com article discussing journalism in the post-truth era and ask students to complete the attached worksheet

  1. Extension/Homework:

Have the students read or listen to this NPR article and email one connection they see between Wired article.

Journalism fights for survival in the post truth era

By Jason Tanz Wired.com

  1. The article asserts that 30 years ago, people worried the news media might have had too much power. Come up with three reasons (from the article and your own understanding or observations) of why this might have been true.

a.

b.

c.

  1. From your own understanding of fake news and the post-truth era, in what ways might the media have more power today than it did 30 years ago?
  2. The article quotes Chomsky and Herman’s view of the historical function of the media “the raw material of news must pass through successive filters, leaving only the cleansed residue fit to print” and they state “The result was a false national consensus, one that ignored outlying facts, voices, and ideas.”

In your opinion, have “outlying facts, voices, and ideas” been brought to light in the internet age? What has been the impact of this?

  1. Journalists were once pushed toward “middle of the road consensus because of the economic model of journalism.” Using this idea, explain the difference between broadcasting and narrowcasting, and see if you can do it without looking up the terms.

Does better journalism happen when you appeal to a wide range of beliefs and thoughts or does better journalism happen when you can focus on fringe voices that don’t always get heard through mainstream channels?

Defend your answer.

  1. The author argues that readers are essentially the new publishers. It is demand for stories that drives content, and appealing to people’s feelings is the best way to drive demand. Identify three ways in which an author of a fake news story may try to appeal to people’s feelings?

     a.

     b.

     c.

  1.   Find an example of a widely circulated fake news story that appeals to the emotions of a specific audience.
  2. Print it off or link to it here
  3. Identify the audience this story is meant to target. How do you know?
  4. Using the ESCAPE principles (handout or link), explain why you know not to trust this source.
  5. Identify the feelings the author is trying to stir to create demand.

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