News Literacy and the Publications Staff
An activity-based lesson that introduces students to news literacy and guides them through a news literacy critique
In this lesson, student media staffers will learn how news literacy concepts can strengthen their content, help build teamwork and facilitate stronger community relations. To illustrate this approach, the teacher will guide students through a news-literate critique. Note: If you have not discussed the importance of news literacy or its guiding principles with your students, please use the first lesson in this news literacy unit to set a foundation.
- Student journalists will use news literacy concepts to inform content and publishing decisions.
- Student journalists will apply news literacy outcomes to facilitate a publications critique.
- Student journalists will facilitate community feedback sessions to demonstrate their understanding of how news literacy concepts can strengthen their publication.
Common Core State Standards
|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.|
Partnership for 21st Century Skills — Student Outcomes
|Critical Thinking||Reason effectively
Use systems thinking
Make judgments and decisions
|Information Literacy||Access and evaluate information
Use and manage information
Copies of publication/media for staff critique
1. News literacy is good journalism — 10 minutes
As with most publications staffs, student journalists try to adhere to the basic tenets of journalism in order to produce responsible, accurate, fair content. It should come as no surprise, then, that the standards that help citizens become more news literate are also often met by the highest quality journalism. For example, explain that these tenets of news literacy have similar and complementary roles in journalism production:
- credible sources
- diverse perspectives
- open-minded coverage
Ask students how they approach each of these elements in the production of their student media. Do you have any specific policies that explain these elements? Whose job is it to ensure standards related to these elements are met?
2. The news literate critique — 40 minutes
Using the remainder of class time, ask your students to conduct a reverse critique of their publication. Placing themselves in the position of a news consumer who is using their publication to be more news literate, go through the content, text, visuals, design, sources, representation, etc., and ask the following news literacy “basics,” reimagined for a critique:
1. Informed citizens are essential to good government and free society. Does this publication provide the kind of information that will help students participate in their school community?
2. There is a public value to sharing accurate, newsworthy information. How many errors in fact or context are there in your publication? How will you correct and share the correct information in the most appropriate manner?
3. The Internet has changed how people receive news information, and now people have to take a more active role in becoming well informed and sharing accurate information. Have you used the wealth of information available to you to publish only the most relevant content, and have you guided your readers to extra resources?
4. Accurate information is available online, but so is poor quality, misleading information. If you used online sources for a story, were they the best sources possible? If not, why? What is your staff’s standard for decided whether an online source is acceptable?
5. The Internet makes it possible to independently fact check and verify information by looking at multiple information providers. What is the fact-checking process for your publication? Is there a process? Are all staffers aware of this process, and do they participate?
6. In assessing the accuracy of information, it is important to consider who is providing it and their sources and whether the information includes verifiable facts and key perspectives instead of opinions and unsubstantiated conclusions. Are reporters using the “easy” sources, or are they finding the people who are actually best-suited to provide that information?
7. To be well informed, one should get news from multiple outlets representing different perspectives. Take an inventory of all your sources and create a blacklist. Any student source that has already appeared in the publication three times should get blacklisted so that reporters will look for other, more diverse sources AND the stories that come from talking to a variety of students. Does your publication source list read like a list of who is most popular? If so, it’s time to diversify.
8. It’s important to follow a story over time to be able to trust the information. What stories can you follow up on? How can you cover this story in a relevant way in the future?
9. Some news and information has a strong bias, and there are ways to recognize this. Think about your most controversial story, and spend some time exploring strong opinions on both side. What would your harshest critic say about the story? Is there any merit to those concerns? How could you address them?
10. One should be skeptical of information based purely on anonymous or biased sources. If anonymous sources were used, were they done so with utmost care and only in the most extreme situations? Did you follow your publication’s policy for using these sources?
11. It’s important to be aware of one’s own biases and assumptions and seek reliable information that challenges one’s own views. Have you ever discussed what biases or opinions your staff members hold dear? Have an honest discussion now, and think about how that might fuel your approaches to stories and coverage. Then, consider how the staff can work together to turn these biases into strengths instead of weaknesses.
12. It is important to be open minded rather than having fixed opinions that can’t be changed even with new facts. What “truths” about your school or student body are never challenged? Is there any annual coverage that is overused or in need of being reinvented? Take a few minutes to entertain the most extreme ideas — leaving all “what ifs” aside. Pretend as if any story, any coverage, any design, any photo were possible. Now, how might you accomplish this as a service to your readers?
Finally, using this critique as a starting point, make a game plan for how you will improve your publication.