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A free summer seminar for experienced high school journalism advisers

From the 23 teachers who attended this workshop in July 2019, we have included Solutions Journalism Story Ideas, other Story Ideas for a whole range of topics and Tech Examples of something they learned, many of these for data visualization, plus some resources anyone can use in the future for these topics.

Critical class lessons needed to help combat “fake news”

When students come to class excited to share a bit of information they got online, they cringe when asked where they found their gem of “news.” Inevitably, they will say Instagram or Snapchat. When pressed on who exactly shared it, they shrug. 

They saw it. They read it. They passed it along. “What’s the problem?” they ask defensively. 

Mandy Jenkins, general manager for McClatchy’s local news initiative The Compass Experiment, worked with journalism advisers at the CSJ Summer Workshop to become stronger at verifying news consumed online and teach students to do the same.

“Learn how to distrust everybody,” Jenkins said. “Expect that everything you see online is a lie.”

This dives into media literacy and why engaging students in such lessons is critical.

There are examples daily that support the need. This evening, CNN broadcast a panel of “Republican women in Dallas” explaining all of the reasons they do not believe President Donald Trump is a racist. 

Soon after the interview aired, it did not take long for more videos of the women to surface. These same women were members of the Texas Women for Trump Coalition – a tidbit not mentioned in today’s story. In 2016, they were in the media defending Trump after the Access Hollywood tapes surfaced. Such context is important. 

In addition, altered photos and videos also surface regularly. Media consumers cannot always tell what’s real from what is not. When an altered video of Nancy Pelosi went viral on Facebook at the end of May, it looked like she was slurring her words through a speech. Facebook acknowledged the video was altered but would not remove it from their site, nor put a warning on it. Reports showed it was removed from Facebook almost a week later after 2.9 million views and more than 48,000 shares. Facebook denied having anything to do with its removal.

With such an emphasis and need for verification these days, Jenkins said open-source intelligence is one of the fastest growing jobs in journalism. She offered a number of tips to help make sure what you’re viewing or sharing is legitimate. 

Interview the Content

  1. Verify the source. 
  • Does the account look real? 
  • What is their connection to the story? 
  • How often do they post?
  • Where do they post from?
  • When was the account created? 
  • What is their upload history? 
  • Do they own the content?
  1. Verify the location
  • What is the source’s connection?
  • What do they say the location is?
  • Is it geolocated automatically?
  • Do registration plates, signs, storefronts, etc. indicate country or state?
  • Can we geolocate images against Google Earth/Streetview?
  1. Verify the date
  • What is the actual time of upload?
  • Does the information corroborate against other reports or sources?
  • Are there shadows that tally with the time of day?
  • Do weather reports corroborate with the date of the video or picture?
  • If you are looking at a photo, can you check the exchangeable image file?

Journalism advisers can take small steps now. Scanning Twitter or Instagram before class starts will surely offer daily lessons. And if students walk in with their own news, they should be prepared to answer some basic questions about where they found it and who shared it. 

Take five minutes. Make it a lesson. Look it up. Talk about it as a class. If it ends up being fake, don’t just let them shrug and walk away. Remind kids again and again to think twice when they read news online. 

“We have to change the mentality,” Jenkins said. “You should feel bad if you’re fooled on the internet. People were trying to trick you instead of just your friends. You should feel bad you were duped. You should feel bad for being so dumb.”

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  1. Great recap of these notes! Whenever my students (or colleagues or bosses) tell me something along the lines of “People are saying…” or “We think that you should…” or “They won’t let us do that,” my immediate follow-up questions are “What people?” / “Who is we?” / “Who is they?” Context is very essential, just as you referred to in the CNN panel post.

  2. Fabulous material. Something we can use with students to introduce them to (or refresh their memories) the importance of verifying information.

  3. This was my favorite session so far – thanks for the recap!

  4. “…You should feel bad for being so dumb.” Yep! Great recap!

  5. Great resource-Thanks!