IN RECENT MONTHS, there has been so much talk and debate about the trustworthiness of news coverage that I find myself wondering about the impact it may be having on students. It’s already too easy to become jaded about information in a world where everyone seems to be talking at the same time. Do young people know how to navigate their way through the commotion and take hold of what’s important? Do they even try?
As teachers, you undoubtedly have more insight on this than most of us, and I’m willing to bet that many of you are doing whatever you can to help students understand that information consumption is not a passive activity, but rather, an exercise of the mind which requires knowledge, discernment, and the ability to consider things in context.
I believe it’s essential to help students understand that when watching the news, or even just scanning social media, they are not merely being talked at, but talked to, and that being talked to gives them power in that they have the choice to either process the information or reject it. But deciding whether a piece of information is worth holding onto requires that they think it through—put it into context, consider the source, weigh the information against what they already know.
With regard to context, consider television news. How might coverage of a story vary from channel to channel? What angle do the news presenters pursue; what facts do they choose to emphasize; and what might that decision have to do with the makeup of their viewership, or where they’re located on the map? For example, Bloomberg Television, a financial news network, may emphasize the economic implications of a news story, whereas CNN and Fox News Channel look at it through a more political lens.
The same story on ESPN News would explore its implications for the sports world, whereas the British-flavored BBC America would be more likely to look at the facts in an international context.
Your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE channel lineup features all these channels, along with many others that are either totally devoted to news and opinion, or feature specific news programs among their offerings. For example, there’s daily rural and agricultural news on RFD-TV; unvarnished coverage of current events on C-SPAN; and even Spanish-language news via Univision.
You could have your students do a comparative study of how different channels cover the same story, then host a discussion wherein they report their observations. Start by looking over all the services available to you in your DIRECTV SCHOOL CHOICE channel guide.
—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio
“We are all journalists now.”
Chances are you’ve run across that statement somewhere. More and more people are saying it, because it’s true. The line has been blurred. No longer do the professionals have a monopoly on published information. Whether you’re blogging or tweeting or posting things on Facebook, you are functioning—for all practical purposes—as a journalist.
But the question is: Are you a “responsible” journalist? Is the information you are publishing true, or propaganda, or (heaven forbid) an outright lie?
It’s an important question when you consider that we are all, each of us, now living in a virtual sea of information, and information is the stuff people use to make decisions. Decisions that have consequences. Information is a powerful thing.
I believe this point is especially relevant for young people, most of whom haven’t yet compiled enough savvy to recognize that not everything they read is accurate, or even true. Moreover, young people are digital natives, more likely than any other group to both publish and receive information exclusively via the internet.
For this reason alone, I believe that media literacy and a core understanding of journalistic principles are essential to modern education. And to that end, I bring you news of a new trio of resources from PBS Learning Media designed to foster media literacy and responsible citizen journalism in students grades 9 through 12.
Presented as learning modules comprising standards-based classroom exercises and support materials for teachers, the available topics are:
Writing and Reporting/Collaborative Research
A primer on news writing and reporting.
Current Events Awareness/Media Literacy
Consuming news with a critical eye.
Persuasive Writing: Take a Stand
How to state ideas clearly and back them up with proof.
These lessons and more come your way free of charge as part of an exciting new educational effort from the Emmy-winning PBS news magazine series, NOW. We highly recommend that you check it out for yourself.
—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio
That’s right. All they’ll need is a camera and a good story.
They might even end up on TV!
CNN’s popular iReport project invites students age 13 and older to file a news report, share their opinions, or just give a shout out to a favorite teacher. Videos can be uploaded for immediate viewing, and the best ones may even be selected to appear on CNN Student News (streaming weekdays on CNNStudentNews.com, and also available as a podcast).
It’s a great way for any young person interested in a journalism career to get some valuable experience. Not to mention exposure. A featured report on CNN Student News would look mighty impressive on a college admissions essay. So spread the word!
Check out the video below for details, and for more information visit CNN iReport.
—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio
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