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What happens when a journalist
gets it wrong?


by Jeff Kocur


What happens when a journalist gets it wrong?


Inaccurate reporting is not the same as fake news, but it can carry the same consequence. What are the forces at play that compel journalists to strive for accuracy? How do media organizations stay accountable for the work of their journalists? What happens when a journalist makes a mistake, and what happens when a media outlet loses the trust of its audience and/or advertisers.


  • Students will understand free market forces which drive media outlets to strive for accuracy.
  • Students will become familiar with the consequences of inaccurate reporting.
  • Students will research an incident of inaccurate reporting including the responses from the culpable media organization afterward.

Common Core State Standards

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.


Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.



50 minutes

Materials / resources

Story on CNN reporter resignations

Exit ticket (below)

Lesson step-by-step

  1. Read the attached article as a jump-in reading activity, and have students discuss the following question as a think-pair-share. (15 minutes)

After the information was deemed unreliable, what steps did CNN take to show they

were not purposefully peddling fake news?

  1. After a brief discussion, share that the CNN incident is not by any means the first time a

news organization has been exposed for stories that were inaccurate or blatantly untrue.

         (30 minutes).

Ask the students if they know of any off the top of their heads?

Place your students in groups of four, and share the attached Disgraced journalists slideshow(see the slideshow below) with them. Each group will choose one journalist (make sure groups report out who they are researching to avoid duplicates) who ruined his or her career by reporting false, inaccurate, or poorly reported information.

Each group will have about 15 minutes to research and create, and about two minutes to report out.

  1. Final Steps/Assessment (5 minutes)

Exit ticket:

Ask the students to reflect on the following question before they leave the room:

What are three concrete steps a reputable media operation should take when they discover a published story has major errors in it?

Disgraced journalists slideshow

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