Teaching News Literacy

Think about it: one little amazing device – a smart phone – allows us to carry thousands of sources of information with us wherever we go. But it can’t tell us how to be smart about sorting through that information, about how to know what to believe, or how to know when news is delivered with opinion buried subtly within. It is sometimes difficult for adults to catch when subtle manipulation happens. Children and teens need guidance from their parents and their teachers on how to become discerning news consumers.We are sharing a few ideas here. We’ll add more later.


Watch this video to learn about our News Tutor app.

Watch a video to learn about our News Tutor app.

Lesson Plan #1:

Use the News Tutor app for the iPad (an iPhone version is also available) in the classroom, allowing the students to either work through the four scenarios in small groups or individually. If you only have one iPad to work with, project it and work through the quiz game as a class. You will find that a lot of discussion can stem from these four scenarios (with 10 questions each) so it might be best to plan only going through two scenarios (20 questions)  if your class time is less than an hour.

Lesson Plan #2:

Set aside 20 minutes and ask the student/s (let’s be honest: we adults – wrapped up with certain cable news channels – should be the “students” here also, not just kids) to watch our Livestock Housing Set video, which you can find on our “Apps and Videos” page. If the viewer is an adult, college student or particularly sharp younger student, ask them to watch the version “without cues.” For most high school and younger students (we suggest 10 and older), use the version “with pop-ups.” Explain that they will watch a “centered” report, which is our attempt at a fair and even-handed news video. They will then see two skewed versions of the same report. These are our examples of what lazy or manipulative journalism looks like. Ask the older students who watch the version without cues to list as many differences as possible between the centered version and the skewed version. With both groups, you will want to discuss the changes they noticed and how those differences might influence how a viewer would interpret the facts.

Lesson Plan #3:

Ask the students to think of examples from history where problems arose because a group wasn’t listened to because their views didn’t match the views of the mainstream at their place and time in history. Were they mistreated as a result? How is this relevant today when we consider how we get information?



In the past, journalists were taught to play a role of unbiased observer. Many journalists now realize that it is difficult – impossible, really – to completely isolate a person from their way of viewing the world. You are a product of your upbringing, and many influences throughout your life affect the decisions you make as a reporter. It can be as simple as which sources you choose to call. In acknowledging this, however, some journalists seem to want to give up on the idea of being observers of the news, and freely or deliberately allow their viewpoint to set the direction of their reporting. We disagree.

We should clarify, however, that a reporter’s bias isn’t always a negative thing; their background might mean they are interested in an investigative story that other reporters have ignored, for example. Still, we don’t think it’s healthy to give up on the idea – the goal – of honestly giving all sides a fair hearing in a news report. Otherwise, the public will either lose faith in the media completely or simply listen to one-sided news sources that fit their viewpoint. In other words, conservatives will turn to conservative media outlets, liberals to liberal media outlets, and none of us will learn about other viewpoints in any meaningful way.



The following are great places to read more about journalism ethics:

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