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News source evaluation: Teaching and Learning about News

Real news, sloppy news, biased news, and just plain fake news: What are the issues? And how do you tell the difference?

How do we teach media literacy?

Zimdar's List

Journalist Ethics

As a profession, journalists follow a code of ethics.  Many news outlets publish their agency's ethical code on their websites.  The Document linked below is from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Stanford Study

News Literacy Panel discussion FDD 2018

Teaching ideas from CJC listserv

On Fri, Jan 27, 2017 at 12:25 PM, Herman, Amy <> wrote:

Two weeks ago our Environmental Biology classes came in.  They already have a research paper assigned as part of their class on an environmental topic of their choice.  For the library session we brainstormed our own list of criteria for what we should be on the lookout for to determine if science news is credible, then compared our list to another “checklist” handout I’d previously composed.   I then did a Google search for [Fukushima radiation west coast] and I chose one of the results I knew was “bad” and we ran it against our list of criteria to see how many ways it failed, including: the main image having its very own entry on Snopes, showing that the original image is actually of wave height after the earthquake, not radiation spread as implied on the website; the author being listed as “Tyler Durden” –pop culture reference to Fight Club and the author’s page being restricted from view; sensational language; etc.  I also had them try to verify the dead starfish image attributed to the “AP” and couldn’t, and discussed how the image could be from anywhere, not necessarily Japan.  We then looked at a better, more credible website for comparison.


We also discussed Google search result display algorithm because the “bad” article had been in the top 10 results the day before when I’d been prepping, but on the day of instruction was on page 3 (and is now even further down).


Fukushima article:

Snopes article on the image used:

Garrison Libby

I've been putting together an information literacy activity where I divide students into groups and give each of them an article about the vaccine/autism debate. It's a topic that lends itself really well to discussion about science, news, the spread of information, and the peer-review process (and also does not fall cleanly along political lines). I've got one random blog, an article from a respected newspaper, a CDC factsheet, a peer-reviewed article, and an article from a journal that masks itself as legitimate even though it is not. I have the students work in groups to discuss the article they were given and try to figure out whether or not it's a credible source, and also whether or not it's an acceptable resource to use in an academic paper. I can dig out the links I put together if you're interested. 


For a physics class, you could do something similar with climate change -- there's a lot of good information, bad information, and bad information masquerading as good information out there. And climate change is more directly relevant to physics than vaccines/autism. is a really good website discussing climate change and debunking the arguments against it, backed by good peer-reviewed information, so that could be a good place to turn to.


News to Evaluate

Test your ability to apply news evaluation skills on these articles.

News Evaluation Game

This game was developed by the game lab at American University. It's like Tinder--swipe right if you think the news is real and left if you think it's fake. There is a hint on each screen disclosing the name of the info source. If you're really conscientious, open a second tab and do a little Goggling to find more clues.

Lessons in Information Literacy