The new civics course in schools: How to avoid fake news
WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. - They are the unexpected classroom lessons of the election season - on the reach and repercussions of fake news.
Teachers from elementary school through college have been ramping up media literacy training to recognize bogus reports and understand their potential to weaken civic culture.
Tom Boll recently wrapped up a course on real and fake news at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. He says that with social media now allowing everyone to post and share, gone are the days of television and newspaper editors serving as the primary gatekeepers of information.
Raleigh, North Carolina-area teacher Bill Ferriter tells his students to first use common sense to question whether a story could possibly be true and be skeptical of articles that seem aimed at riling them up.
Some of their media literacy lessons:
- URL look odd? That "com.co" ending on an otherwise authentic-looking website is a red flag. When in doubt, click on the "contact" and "about" links to see where they lead. A major news organization probably isn't headquartered in a house.
- Does it make you mad? False reports often target emotions with claims of outlandish spending or unpatriotic words or deeds. If common sense tells you it can't be true, it may not be.
- If it's real, other news sites are likely reporting it.
- How is the writing? Caps lock and multiple exclamation points don't have a place in most real newsrooms.
- Who are the writers and the people in the story? Google names for clues to see if they are legitimate, or not.
- What are fact-checking sites like Snopes.com and FactCheck.org finding?
- It might be satire. Sometimes foolish stories aren't really meant to fool.
- Think twice before sharing. Today, everyone is a publisher.
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