Where Do We Get Our News and Why Does It Matter?

Setting Healthy News Habits

We live in a time when it is difficult to separate quality news from news that is either fabricated or relies on sloppy journalism. Across the world, people increasingly turn to social media to learn about events. Young people need media literacy tools to sift through the articles and videos that come through their feeds and to consider the ethics of what they read and share.

This Teaching Idea is designed to help students take stock of their media choices, explore how social media can spread misinformation, and think about what healthy news habits they want to adopt.

  1. Consider Your News Diet: What News Do You Consume and How?

    Read When It Comes to News, Americans Would Rather Watch Than Read or Listen from Newsela (free account required). Use the Think, Pair, Share strategy to give students the opportunity to respond to and discuss the following:

    • How do you learn about what’s happening in your community, your country, and the around the world?
    • How do you get your news? (from peers, parents, teachers, newspapers or magazines, online news sources, social media?)
    • How do you feel about the news from the last few months? What stories have been particularly memorable?
    • Do you think the news sources you follow reinforce what you already believe or challenge you with a broader array of perspectives?
  2. Investigate Sources: How Does Social Media Make it Hard to Sort Fact from Fiction?

    Share with students that recent research suggests that social media is now the main news source for Americans, surpassing even newspapers. Quickly brainstorm with students some of the implications of that finding:

    How might getting our news from social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and others) instead of from newspapers or television news affect what we believe and how we respond?

    Share one or more of the following sources with your students to further explore how social media shapes people's understanding of current events:

    As students read, listen, and/or watch the stories above, have them respond to the following questions:

    • How would you define “fake” or “junk” news?
    • What is a bot? How do bots lead to the spread of misinformation?
    • What is bias? What is confirmation bias? How does it affect what news sources people seek?
    • How might misinformation exacerbate the differences and divisions in our society?
    • The Above the Noise video outlines strategies for people to combat confirmation bias. According to the video, people should recognize that they have bias, consider that they may not understand as much as they think they do, and research opposing perspectives. Which of these suggestions do you think is most challenging, and why? What would you add to these strategies to help counter the news habits that people had last year?

    Note: For deeper context and a lesson pertaining to confirmation bias, view our lesson The Challenge of Confirmation Bias from the unit, Standing Up for Democracy. For more in-depth resources on media literacy, go to Checkology from the News Literacy Project.

  3. What Healthy News Habits Might You Adopt?

    Share the News Literacy Project's Ten Questions for Fake News Detection and have students look over the questions it asks to help them identify the quality of a news piece. Ask your students:

    • Do you employ any of these strategies already? If so, which ones?

    • Do any of these questions surprise you? Why or why not? 

    Invite students to write down their goals for how they will follow the news, which they can share with their classmates, friends, and families as an exit card. They can draw on the Ten Questions for ideas. Prompt them to respond to the following questions:

    • What can you do to ensure that the news and information you read, believe, and share with others is accurate. 
    • How will you try to become aware of and overcome confirmation bias when you respond to news and information.
    • Why is this important? What effect does the way we all consume news and media have on our society. On our ability to live up to the ideals of democracy?
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