Unreliable. Inaccurate. Biased.
During election season, many people will give these descriptions to news media they disagree with.
Similarly, these flaws are easy to overlook in the sources you like or tend to agree with. What’s worse, however, is not thinking about these issues at all. Whether in election news or any other topic, it’s important to be aware of how the news is produced and how you perceive it.
At the American Press Institute (API), we put energy into helping news readers of any age understand and evaluate the news they encounter. In our work with youth and media, we generally recommend six basic questions that can be asked about the news you encounter:
6. Knowledge: Is there an issue here that I want to learn more about, and where can I do that?
We are excited to partner with Newsela to offer a way for teachers to begin some of these thoughtful media literacy discussions with their students. Newsela has created an election Text Set that focuses squarely on media literacy. Every article in the set uses some of API’s six questions as Annotations to encourage critical thinking — and teachers can use some, or all, of the six questions to guide classroom discussion.
In this example, asking about the sourcing can help students think critically about who is conveying the information. It likewise can lead to meaningful classroom conversation on how a source came to his or her conclusions, and what motivations he or she might have that could influence what they say.
Teachers can also access other media literacy tips by viewing Newsela’s media literacy toolkit. We’ll be holding a joint-webinar with Newsela on Tuesday, October 25, at 6 pm EDT, two weeks before the presidential election, to show teachers how to introduce these concepts in the classroom.
In the meantime, these same questions are further explained in an API resource, “Six questions that will tell you what media to trust” — which may be a good printout for your students. The questions are derived from the book “Blur: How To Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload” by API Executive Director Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach.
We can’t think of a better time to emphasize media literacy than election season. These resources ensure that any student, no matter his or her reading level, is equipped with the necessary tools to analyze the media and its messages. And once students are better able to evaluate media based on reliability and accuracy, they’ll be able to apply these skills beyond the classroom for years to come.
Katie Kutsko is the American Press Institute’s primary coordinator of youth news literacy programs. She can be reached at email@example.com.