Between the recent presidential election, COVID-19, and racial unrest, our students are barraged with 24/7 access to news and media that can be real, fake, or altered. According to the presenters in a recent edWebinar sponsored by ABC-CLIO, the relationship between the terms “news” and “media” are fundamental distinctions that we need to make when working with students in the new era of journalism.
Jacquelyn Whiting, the innovation and technology specialist for Cooperative Educational Services, and Peter Adams, the senior vice president of education for the News Literacy Project, assert that while there are many credentialed journalists, there is also “a world of citizen journalists with mini-computers in their pockets.”
Because both news and media types of journalists are content creators, the relationship between professional and citizen is significant for us to consider with our students.
Students must understand when to recognize trustworthy information and credible, high-quality journalism.
Whiting and Adams favor beginning the process of teaching students to identify reliable journalism by ensuring they understand and acknowledge high-quality journalism standards: sourcing, documents, and evidence, minimize bias, fairness, transparency and accountability, news judgment, verification, and context.
While many journalists, both professional and amateur, keep high journalism standards, many content creators are posting, sharing, and writing disinformation. These creators count on three types of bias from their readers: emotional reactions, implicit bias, and propaganda tactics. When the reader has an emotional response to a piece of media, emotional arousal suppresses critical thought. When beliefs and attitudes are triggered, implicit bias can inspire a different reaction and connection to a piece of media.
Propaganda tactics rely on emotional responses, getting on the “bandwagon,” and fear.
It is fundamental to teach students the standards of high-quality journalism to evaluate and grapple with the critical question of what counts as the center and who decides.
When introducing a new lesson with the framework for teaching bias, it is imperative to break it down to the five types of news media biases: partisan, demographic, corporate, neutrality, and “big story.” The presenters recommend creating lessons that help students push past all of the biases by identifying the five core forms biases can take: the absence of fairness and balance, framing, tone, story selection, and sourcing.
While social media can play a big part in where our students get their information, it is paramount for educators to design news and media lessons on straight news. The mindset for educators in designing quality lessons about news and media should be that the perception of bias is the beginning and not the end of student inquiry. If a student thinks something is biased, ask them in what ways is it biased, what type of bias are they seeing and how is it expressed, and how could it have been fairer or more accurate?
Whiting and Adams also cautioned educators to be wary of students’ cynicism and their assumptions that everything is out to manipulate them in some way. Help students approach identifying biases in a fair-minded sort of skeptical way and avoid the pitfalls of cynicism.