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News Literacy Toolkit

About This News Literacy Toolkit

News literacy - "[t]he ability to use critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports" (Stonybrook University's Center for News Literacy) - has become increasingly complex in past decades. Digital technologies have greatly influenced how news information is created and circulated. At the same time research shows that the United States has become more politically polarized, and this is reflected in much of the news that we encounter.

This guide includes resources to help with evaluating news sources and exploring the complexities of news information today. See the left-hand menu for various resource types.

Why News Literacy?

Although misinformation and disinformation is not new, the rise of social media has increased its power and reach. Reflecting the rise of dubious "facts" Oxford Dictionaries named "post-truth" as its 2016 "Word of the Year." This guide is intended to help readers evaluate news sources for accuracy and identify bias.

Reasons that fake news has become a growing problem include:

  • The growing use of social media as the primary source for news consumption:
    According to a Pew Research Center report over 40% of adults in the US go to Facebook for their news.
     
  • The appeal of sensational and often false "clickbait" information
    News that goes "viral" and is widely shared is far more likely to be false or misleading.
     
  • "Filter bubbles" that result from the personalized web:
    Search engines and social media commonly present us information which is geared to agree with our individual interests and perspective. We then miss information that others with different perspectives are more likely to see.
     
  • Confirmation bias:
    People are predisposed to believe information that fits their worldview and to discount information that does not.

These factors reflect a need to carefully evaluate news sources and where and how we get our news.

Key Resources

Glossary: The Language of News Literacy (Stony Brook University)

FAIR's Media Activism Toolkit (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting): "How-to" guides on identifying and challenging misleading or unfair news coverage

Tips on How to Spot Fake News (FactCheck.org):

  • Consider the source.
  • Read beyond the headline.
  • Check the author.
  • What's the support?
  • Check the date.
  • Check your biases.
  • Consult the experts.

Six Questions that Will Tell You Which Media to Trust (American Press Institute)

  1. Content type
  2. Source
  3. Evidence
  4. Interpretation
  5. Completeness
  6. Knowledge gained

Key Concepts for Media Literacy (Media Smarts):

  1. Media are constructions.
  2. Audiences negotiate meaning.
  3. Media have commercial implications.
  4. Media have social and political implications.
  5. Each medium has a unique aesthetic form.

Allsides: Compares news coverage from left, right, and center sources

Truth, Truthiness, Triangulation: A News Literacy Toolkit for a Post-Truth World (School Library Journal)

Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers (Mike Caulfield, 2017): Free and excellent online book with strategies for evaluating and fact-checking online sources