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Teaching students to fact-check themselves and others

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by Susan McNulty, CJE
The Stampede and The Hoofbeat adviser
J.W. Mitchell High School, Trinity, Florida

Thursday, Jan. 9, Facebook announced in a blog post found here their platform will soon allow users to opt out of certain political and social issue advertisements. 

This decision came in response to demands for Facebook to fact check ads before approving their inclusion on the social media feed. 

Two students illustrate the fact-checking process needed for all reporting.

After endorsing government regulation such as The Honest Ads Act, Rob Leathern, Director of Product Management, stated in the blog post, “In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies. We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public.”

Fact checking, scrutinizing content and debating ideas in public should be celebrated by student journalists and educators. As journalists, our first and most important task is to seek truth and report it. 

As Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said at Georgetown University in October 2019, “Even when there is a common set of facts, different media outlets tell very different stories emphasizing different angles. There’s a lot of nuance here. And while I worry about an erosion of truth, I don’t think most people want to live in a world where you can only post things that tech companies judge to be 100 percent true.”

It is up to us, the producers and consumers of media, to fact-check what we write, say, see, hear and read. We must teach our students to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism, seek out opposing viewpoints and scrutinize both advertisements and news content. 

Multiple lessons in fact-checking can be found within the JEA Curriculum Initiative.

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