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PBS in the Classroom

Students as Journalists: Combating the Fake News Outbreak

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January 10, 2017

Media reporting around the world has changed. Anyone with a recording device can disseminate news, whether the news is true or false. But simply recording video or posting a blog does not make one a journalist, nor does it make the media they distribute true. Journalism requires ethics, critical analysis, judgment, and training. All too often during the past year, we have seen countless examples of “fake” news create what many people are now referencing as a “post-truth” world.

As journalism evolves and facts become blurred, it’s imperative for educators to embrace the principles of media literacy. Media is no longer consumed as commonly on television, print, or the big screen either. With the advent of smart technologies, educators have a very real opportunity to teach their students new ways to learn, read, access media, verify information, and practice digital citizenship while incorporating media literacy lessons across all subjects.

The YouTube Generation   A 2016 Newsela article shared the results from an annual study on the digital behavior of children ages six to twelve, conducted by the Smarty Pants group. They reported 81% of six to eight year-olds and 76% of nine to twelve year-olds use YouTube. In fact, YouTube, is the second largest search engine in the world.  Since our students as young as Kindergarten or first grade have access to online information, it makes sense to offer lessons in our classrooms to help guide them.  

I recently hosted a PBS Education webinar challenging educators to develop their students as journalists. From a turn and talk interview, to a powerful, but simple infographic, to conducting a live or virtual interview with an expert, allowing your students of all ages to become journalists is a fun way for them to learn material and create their own media. In fact, research shows students with journalism skills excel in all areas of their study. During the webinar I offer research, data, and a plethora of free curriculum resources through PBSLearningMedia, as well my own personal material I have authored.

The benefits of ‘owning’ media message creation   I have found the best way to become truly media literate is to produce your own content. Once someone constructs their own media message, they begin to deeply understand what, how, and why news is being distributed. From the message, to creative techniques which get and keep our attention, to the inclusion or omission of information, once someone understands the process, they never consume the same way. They begin to understand media is created for profit, power, and a specific agenda of distributing information.

Separating truth from fiction   The media literacy process takes active participation as well, which is a very real challenge. Lack of awareness and apathy are stances many Americans have adopted and are not easily reversed. I have advocated for media literacy to be on the forefront for years because for the past decade or more, many schools have told students to put away their cell phones, they have blocked social media, and many have avoided the necessary conversation of online consumption and creation. Many of these students were voters in the past U.S. election and took information at face value, rather than verifying truth from fiction. I believe we have now seen the unintended consequences of not teaching these skills in school, as kids believe anything they read or watch online. I truly hope all subjects and levels of education no longer dismiss the importance of media literacy.

Getting back to facts for students   Finally, I challenge you to analyze your own media use and ask your students to do the same. Once you and your students critically analyze your habits, I believe you will begin to realize the importance of learning media literacy. Invite your students to become journalists. Turning a post-truth world back to a factually based democracy is critical, and school is a great place to begin our journey. 


Don is a high school multimedia instructor from St. Louis, MO. He advises his students on the creation of LHS-TV & Films. Don works in a 1:1 iPad school environment and offers students and educators innovative ways to leverage video and media literacy into classroom practices and projects. Don was a part of the 2011 Apple Distinguished Educator class. You can connect with him at DonGoble.com or @dgoble2001 on Twitter. View his webinar, here.


Don Goble

Don Goble High School Multimedia Instructor www.DonGoble.com Twitter: dgoble2001

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