News Literacy Guide
“The ability to use critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports, whether they come via print, television or the Internet”--Glossary, Digital Resource Center: Center for News Literacy
What is news?
The information that keeps us informed about our world. The Digital Resource Center: Center for News Literacy defines news in four ways:
- News is a "Scoop"--Newsworthy often means new
- News is what an editor thinks is news--Someone is always making decisions about what gets published and what doesn’t; what leads are followed up on and which are left unexamined
- News is what's on society's mind--think of what gets shared among your friends or on social media
- News is what powerful people don't want you to know--Journalists uncover truths; it is their job to investigate and report so that citizens can make informed decisions
What is journalism?
The American Press Institute defines journalism as “the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.” The Society of Professional Journalists have a Code of Ethics that guides their work.
What is Fake News?
Media Matters defines fake news as “information that is clearly and demonstrably fabricated and that has been packaged and distributed to appear as legitimate news.” Of course, the term fake news is often used to refer to other kinds of information, whether that is news we don’t agree with or satire or clickbait or deeply biased reporting. Accuracy when describing information is important to evaluating the validity of that information.
- A Guide to Fake News Terminology
- A great example of how complicated this terminology can be: Is it satire or fake news? Depends on who you ask
We all have a world view, a set of beliefs that we use to understand the world around us. These beliefs often develop into biases, a preference for a particular perspective that upholds our worldview. These biases aren’t necessarily bad, but they do often obscure vital pieces of information that may lead to a fuller understanding of a story. This section of the News Literacy Guide provides resources for how to recognize your own bias, how to recognize bias in the news and media you consume, as well as some strategies for getting a fuller picture of news events and issues in the media.
News Quality Chart--First, identify the news source you use the most, and then see where it falls on the Liberal/Conservative range, and then where it falls on the original reporting/fake news range.Read about how this chart was developed.
- Allsides is a website that presents articles about issues from three distinct perspectives: liberal, conservative, and center. It’s particularly useful in understanding how language can be used to convey very different perspectives on the same event.
- Discover your Bias--Allsides also provides its own tool, along with other resources, to make it easier to recognize your biases. Most are fairly short online quizzes. Try one out!
- Why You Stink at Fact Checking looks at research from Cognitive Psychology to understand why we so often struggle to identify and retain factual information
- How to Escape your Political Bubble for a Clearer View (NY Times article on ways to get views from other political viewpoints)
Evaluating Credibility and Checking Facts
Not all information sources are created equally. There are a number of factors to consider when evaluating the credibility of a news source, and determining whether the information provided is true, fake, or just one side of the story. The resources below can help you think through the process.
- 7 Tips for Spotting Fake News
- How to Choose Your News (video from TED-Ed)
- 'False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources' by Melissa Zimdars, Assistant Professor, Communication and Media at Merrimack College
- What Makes a Trustworthy News Source?
- Read Laterally
- On The Media’s Breaking News Consumer Handbook
Fact Checking Sites
How and Why Fake News Spreads
- How False News Can Spread (video from TED-Ed)
- How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study (From the New York Times)
- Fake News and the Spread of Misinformation (research on fake news compiled by the Journalist's Resource)
- Can You Believe It? On Twitter, False Stories Are Shared More Widely Than True Ones (NPR reporting on original research, The Spread of True and False News Online, published in Science)
Resources for Teaching News Literacy
Looking for materials to support a class you’re teaching? Or do you just want a deeper dive into understanding news literacy? Either way, these resources provide lesson plans, activities, readings, and other media to develop news literacy.
- A full News Literacy course, developed at Stony Brook University
- Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers--an open access text with a CC BY 4.0 license
- The Influencing Machine : Brooke Gladstone on the Media--A history of the media that provides tools for becoming better media consumers.
- "Fake News," Lies and Propaganda: How to Sort Fact from Fiction--A research guide developed by the University of Michigan library
- How Youth Navigate the News Landscape--Recent qualitative research by Data & Society, funded by the Knight Foundation
- Get news. Not too quickly. Avoid social.--Useful advice a NYTimes journalist
- You Think You Want Media Literacy… Do You?--A provocative perspective from Danah Boyd, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, the founder and president of Data & Society Research Institute, and a Visiting Professor at New York University