The News Literacy Project was founded more than a decade ago by Alan Miller, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with the Los Angeles Times, and it has become the leading provider of information literacy education. You can learn more about the organization, its resources, and its programs here.
Content for this article comes from Sift, the organization’s newsletter for educators, which has more than 23,000 subscribers. Published weekly during the school year, it explores timely examples of misinformation, discusses media and press freedom topics, discusses social media trends and issues, and includes discussion prompts and activities to the class. Get Smart About News, modeled after the Sift, is a free weekly newsletter aimed at the public.
Checkology, the News Literacy Project’s browser-based online learning platform, helps educators teach middle and high school students how to identify credible information, research reliable sources, and know what to trust, what to reject. and what to demystify.
It also gives them an appreciation for the importance of the First Amendment and a free press. Checkology and all NLP resources and programs are free. Since 2016, more than 37,000 educators in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 120 countries have registered to use the platform. As of August 2020, over 3,000 educators and over 125,000 students have actively used Checkology.
Here is material from the May 16 edition of the Sift:
1. Authorities are investigating links between the May 14 mass shooting in Buffalo, and “Great Replacement Theory,” a racist and anti-Semitic ideology that smolders in extremist echo chambers online and has seeped into mainstream political discourse. The shooting – which killed 10 people, mostly black people – was briefly livestreamed on Twitch before being deleted, but copies of the video continue to proliferate on social media.
◦ “Why NPR doesn’t use the word ‘manifest'” (Tony Cavin, NPR).
◦ “Buffalo Supermarket Shooting Suspect Reportedly Released Manifesto Repeatedly Citing ‘Great Replacement’ Theory” (Ben Collins, NBC News).
• Resource: “Conspiratorial Thinking” (virtual classroom Checkology).
2. Should journalists be able to express personal opinions on the issues they cover? This issue is at the heart of a new debate following the recent Supreme Court leak involving Roe vs. Wade. Some newsrooms have advised reporters to refrain from expressing their views on abortion to avoid accusations or perceptions of bias, while Rolling Stone magazine editor Noah Shachtman told members of the personal “you don’t have to stifle your beliefs” and said in a May 11 tweet that he did not “understand the logic of telling your staff to shut up while their rights are taken away from them”.
• Discuss: Can journalists express personal opinions without undermining people’s trust in the fairness of their journalism? What steps are journalists and news agencies taking to minimize bias in news coverage?
• Resource: “Understanding Bias” (Virtual Checkology Classroom).
Outdated and Experimental Homemade Formula Recipes Are Not Safe
NOPE: It is not safe to use old or experimental recipes for infant formula or diluted formula.
YES: Dangerous and outdated infant formula recipes have gone viral on social media platforms during a nationwide shortage of commercial baby formula.
YES: According to experts who strongly advise against using DIY recipes, homemade preparations usually contain inadequate essential nutrients and possibly dangerous bacteria and toxic levels of other substances such as salt and water.
NewsLit Takeaway: People often share misinformation with good intentions, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t always harmful. Several homemade formula recipes circulated online in early May 2022, along with this widely shared photo. User comments on these and other formula shortage posts tell personal anecdotes of being raised on homemade formulas, implying that the recipes are safe. But the medical consensus on many health-related topics, including pregnancy and childbirth, has changed dramatically since 1960 (the date on the recipe in the photo). For example, many doctors in the mid-1960s believed that alcohol stopped preterm labor and recommended that women in preterm labor be given vodka and orange juice or alcohol intravenously.
Remember: While it can be tempting to try health-related advice you find on social media, especially when needed, it’s always best to consult your doctor.
Occupation Democrats push out-of-context celebratory photo of Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni Thomas
NOPE: This photo of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, is not recent and was not taken as the court deliberates a case that could overturn the 1973 landmark Roe vs. Wade decision on the right to abortion.
YES: The photo was uploaded as early as 2018.
NewsLit Takeaway: Hyperpartisan advocacy groups operate to promote a specific political agenda and sometimes put ideology ahead of accuracy. Political posts designed to generate outrage – also known as “outrage bait” – can be extremely effective in boosting social media engagement and expanding the circle of supporters online. It’s always a good idea to remain skeptical of divisive social media posts that provoke a strong emotional reaction, especially when they resonate strongly with your politics and come from a partisan organization. In this case, those who object to the Supreme Court striking down Roe vs. Wade may be particularly likely to react too quickly to this false assertion. Finally, the fact that this post uses inflammatory language in all caps and explicitly asks people to retweet (“RT IF YOU THINK THEM’RE A SHAME!”) are both red flags and indications that the tweet should be approached with skepticism.
Related: “Fact Check: People Who Seek or Obtain Abortions in Alabama are NOT ‘Throwed to Jail for Life'” (Christiana Dillard, Lead Stories).
Resource: Reverse Image Lookup Tutorial (Checkology Virtual Classroom).
You can find this week’s sample rumors to use with students in these slides.
Here are some other information literacy lessons:
Growing ‘news and information chaos’ – and other news literacy lessons
Marjorie Taylor Greene, Misinformation About Ukrainian Victims, and Other Media Literacy Lessons
Joe Rogan, Vaccine Deniers, and Other News Factual Lessons
How to avoid being fooled by false information about Ukraine – and other primer lessons in the news