As journalists, we’re taught to find multiple sources to support a fact — or at the very least one highly reliable source. And so it goes with teaching students how to read and interpret “news.”
Information comes at us from all manner of sources — blogs, websites, institutions, newspapers — and even the most discerning eye must carefully weigh the validity of where, why, and how the information is presented.
In my Q&A with Jeff Livingston, the following quote seems relevant in this context:
We have to make them critical consumers of information. Weigh the sources and judge it for themselves based on the quality of the information.
To that end, journalists are working together to teach students critical thinking skills — how to interpret the information they read — with a program called The News Literacy Project.
Here’s a testimonial from one of the students who participated in the program:
Throughout this process, I grew more skeptical about the facts I read or hear, especially those I find online, where anyone can post information about anything. The guidelines presented in the unit helped me determine whether a source was accurate and reliable—and knowing this made me better at selecting information in an ever-widening sea of sources.
In this article in Edutopia that describes the program, journalists list some of the questions they ask of their students when assessing news: what’s my source? who created the report and what’s the purpose? And of course, when it doubt, check with the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org and Snopes.com.
These skills aren’t just helpful for budding journalists, but for any consumer of news — no matter what the age.