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Importance of news literacy

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments


News literacy resources


Informed citizens are a crucial part of a democracy. As both producers and consumers of news, student journalists must understand the principles of news literacy.

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Your students produce news, but are they news literate? Here are some resources to teach them the basics.


Given the current controversy around fake news and concerning results from the 2016 Stanford research studyabout students’ inability to differentiate fake from real news, news literacy is a crucial skill for our students.

According to the Radio Television Digital News Foundation, “News literacy is the acquisition of 21st-century, critical-thinking skills for analyzing and judging the reliability of news and information, differentiating among facts, opinions and assertions in the media we consume, create and distribute. It can be taught most effectively in cross-curricular, inquiry-based formats at all grade levels. It is a necessary component for literacy in contemporary society.”

The foundation identifies six principlesbehind news literacy to help students evaluate their personal news consumption and their publication content.


News Media Literacy PowerPoint, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission

Six principles behind news literacy, Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism

Evaluation Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning” (executive summary of Stanford Education study)

Students Have ‘Dismaying’ Inability To Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds, NPR

The News Literacy Project

News, Information and Media Literacy,

News and Media Literacy, Common Sense Media

Media Literacy Now

Introducing news literacy, American Press Institute



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Time for informed civic engagement

Posted by on Aug 20, 2018 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


2018 is the season of the which

by John Bowen, MJE

Student journalists must learn to face key questions this fall, not only in terms of scholastic media but also in terms of informed civic engagement:

For example, which information inundating them deserves their belief and active support and which deserves their active skepticism:
• Which version of the truth about collusion in the issues surrounding election meddling?
• Which vision of what America stands for will prevail in the 2018 midterm elections?
• Which political, social, scientific, medical, cultural and educational positions most accurately present reality?
• Which skills will students develop so they cannot only tell the difference between information, misinformation and disinformation but act successfully on those differences?

Responding and acting on these questions – and others below – are among the SPRC’s mission this year.

In other words, when students question authority, as citizens or journalists, they must also question what authority said, authorities’ credibility and reliability and what authority has to gain.

Some call this skeptical knowing or learning. Not cynicism. Not the attack dog theory of media.

The watchdog.

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JEA statement on student free expression
in a vibrant and flourishing democracy

Posted by on Apr 9, 2017 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


The Journalism Education Association, at its board meeting in Seattle Washington April 6, unanimously passed the following statement:

To address current negativity toward news media in general and misunderstanding of its roles in a democracy, the Journalism Education Association reiterates its principles and practices that nourish a lifelong commitment for a vibrant and flourishing democracy.

We strongly believe free student expression as taught and practiced in journalism classes anchors successful scholastic media. So empowered, our programs showcase the importance of news and media literacy, civic engagement, critical thinking and decision-making as the core of lifelong involvement in a democracy.

To protect our democracy and its principles:

  • JEA reaffirms its position that the practice of journalism is an important form of public service to prepare students as engaged, civic-minded citizens who are also discerning information creators and users.
  • JEA will recognize, promote and support strong editorial policies with each media outlet as a designated public forum for student expression where students make all final content decisions without prior review or restraint.
  • JEA will encourage all journalism teachers and advisers to strongly encourage diversity, accuracy and thoroughness in content so student media reflect and make sense to communities they serve.
  • JEA will produce sample editorial policies and accompany them with model ethical guidelines and staff manual procedures that enhance and implement journalistically responsible decisions across media platforms.
  • JEA will encourage journalism teachers and media advisers, even if they must teach and advise under prior review or restraint, to recognize how educationally unsound and democratically unstable these policies and rules are.
  • JEA will insist student free expression not be limited by claims related to program funding or equipment use. Instead, journalism programs should showcase student civic engagement and practice democratic principles no matter what media platform is used.
  • JEA will demonstrate, to communities in and out of school, through its actions, policies, programs and budgeting, its commitment to an informed, vibrant nation where free expression is expected and practiced as part of our diverse American heritage.

Additionally, we believe groups we partner with and endorse should faithfully support principles of free student expression for student media.

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Addressing issues involved in fake news

Posted by on Jan 11, 2017 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


According to a study in a Pew Research Center report released recently, 88 percent of U.S. adults say they believe fake news is causing either a “great deal of confusion” or at least “some confusion” when it comes to people’s understanding of current events.

Categorically false lies-posing-as-breaking-news-stories often start as reportorial problems. Scholastic journalists can begin to address this issue by addressing the following problems:

  • Lack of credibility (sources, information and author)
  • Insufficient crap detection skills/no training in truth seeking
  • Absence of identified sources
  • Incomplete information
  • Unclear or unknown author intent (as in satire/low harm fake news)
  • Lack of context and explanation (of information and meaning of terms/concepts)
  • Confirmation bias/filter bubbles/discrediting of mainstream media
  • Inability to recognize native advertising

The Pew report also showed:
• 23 percent of Americans say they shared fake news at some point
• 14 percent reported they shared a story knowing it was false
• 45 percent said they were somewhat confident they could identify (39 percent said very confident) completely made up articles

Based on exercises I did with journalism students, and on a a recent national study, we think they might be overconfident.

Each year I would present journalism students with fake story assignments  to see if they would think critically through story information. Students did not catch the questionable information, even though they had obvious opportunities to ask questions that would show the assignment’s flaws – and had been told at the beginning of the year we would do an assignment like this.

For example, the students interviewed the principal and assistant principal about the introduction of drug-sniffing ferrets that would go through student lockers at night because of recent evidence of increased drug use in school.

Ferrets, of course, could work through lockers more easily than dogs.

Administrators gave students detailed information about the need for such searches and how the ferrets would operate. They also shared information about a training center for ferrets in a nearby community and studies that showed why ferrets were better than dogs. They included a phone number so students could follow up with trainers. They shared the name of the police department contact.

The story, of course, was completely fake.

The phone number did not work. No such study existed and the local police contact had no knowledge of such a switch from drug-sniffing dogs to ferrets.

Fake news is not new. What is new is its ability to subvert the critical thinking abilities of even more people, especially students, because of the internet and social media, as a recent study showed.

“Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: ‘bleak,'” the study reported.

From middle school to college students, the study’s authors reported, “we were taken aback by students’ lack of preparation.”

And these findings  might not reflect the real problem in schools where censored media produce fake news.

The Pew report also asked who its study respondents think should be responsible for stopping fake news. Briefly, respondents listed the public, the government and elected officials, search engines and social media bear responsibility.

Solutions should start in journalism classrooms.

Call it news literacy, crap detection or just critical thinking skills, solutions lie with those students who either produce, evaluate or consume information. They then, as adults, might not make mistakes  similar to those see in the Pew study.

We have no magic promise of internet filters to quickly tell us what is true and what is to be avoided. Those filters have not worked and may have contributed to the problems.

What we do have is a journalism foundation of news values and ethical guidelines.

And that is the subject of the next look at fake news.

• Ten questions for fake news
Skills and strategies: Fake news v real news: determining the reliability of sources
• Truth, truthiness, triangulation: A news literacy toolkit for a “post truth” world
To fix fake news, look yellow journalism
 Fake news? Bias? How colleges teach students not to be duped
• Flawed news is not fake news





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News literacy resource: Using NewsWhip in the classroom

Posted by on Sep 23, 2015 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Teaching news and media literacy requires a seemingly endless set of contemporary resources. As media changes, examples become outdated, and students move on to the next technology.

A primary goal of news literacy education is to help students see how media operates and its effects on society—in other words, what does the “system” of media look like today?

With this outcome in mind, I’m constantly on the lookout for tools that can shed light on the dynamics of news, social media, technology, and human behavior.

One of my favorite (although admittedly also one of my newest) resources for exploring these topics in the most up-to-date way is via NewsWhip, a website that tracks social media content, how it’s shared, and the human influence of that content.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 10.08.29 AM

Here’s how NewsWhip describes its work:

Through indicators like tweets, shares and comments, people signal what stories are engaging them every minute. NewsWhip’s technology tracks all of this activity for millions of stories to identify those getting the most discussion online.

While NewsWhip is designed as a sort of real-time consulting tool for media companies, its blog provides fresh content and analysis to help students discover more about media and news content today.

For example, an early September post looked at which Republican Candidate was most prominent on Facebook. Using their own data and analysis, including the tracking of shares and comments, NewsWhip provides facts and figures about how candidate information is circulating on Facebook.

The site’s blog posts are not only appropriate for teaching news literacy concepts, but they also often provide insight into using social media and media marketing tools more successfully. These are all topics student media explore on a regular basis, and they provide the perfect context for encouraging students to apply professional media lessons to student media operations.

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