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Fake News: How to Help Students Decipher It.

Americans view the media negatively, think coverage is more biased than ever and their views of the media tend to fall along partisan lines, according to a recent study on news media by Gallup and the Knight Foundation.

In fact, the study found that Americans can't even agree on what constitutes "fake news," according to a report on the study by Politico.com.

"Democrats, the study found, hew more closely to the original definition of the phrase that emerged after the 2016 election, referring to fabricated news stories that are intended to deceive. Republicans, on the other hand, are more likely to have also adopted the meaning that President Donald Trump has ascribed to the term, which he often tags on stories that he dislikes, regardless of whether or not they are factual," the Politico.com article stated.

When it comes to education, there is a need to teach children to discern between anything regarded as "fake news" and real news, judging from several recent studies that have found children and teens have trouble identifying false information online, noted an article published by EducationWeek.com.

But in the past year, a total of 10 states introduced or passed legislation that would encourage schools to teach students how to identify false information, according to information from MediaLiteracyNow.com. Visit https://medialiteracynow.org/your-state-legislation/ for a complete updated list of states' legislative activity.

Educators and parents can help children who may not be equipped to know the difference between what is reported by a bona fide news agency and what they may read on social media, for instance, noted Trudi Jacobson, head of the Information Literacy Department at the University at Albany, and Allison Hosier, Information Literacy Librarian at the university, in a university news release distributed by DJC Communications.

"Students generally believe fake news is what other people believe, those who are easily duped. They also tend to believe that if something is fake, it will be obvious, not realizing the lengths purveyors of propaganda are willing to go to make stories and websites seem real," said Hosier in the news release.

Broad Scope Needed

Hosier advocates teaching students from an early age how to evaluate information, though she cautions that focusing too narrowly on fake news may be counterproductive. "It would be more ideal to focus more broadly on teaching information literacy to students, so they can become more effective and responsible consumers and creators of information," she said.

Jacobson advises parents and teachers to have students ask the following questions when confronted with certain information, with the proviso that they may not be able to answer all of them:

* Who generated this news item? Is it possible to determine?

* Why are they disseminating or sharing this news?

* What is the writing like? Is it designed to provoke emotions?

* Are sources identified? Are you able to track back to that source?

* How did you come across it? Keep in mind that people you trust may share information that they haven't scrutinized themselves.

* Does the news piece report both sides of an issue?

* Check other sources to see what they have to say about this news item. Triangulate, to validate the information you are presented with in a news story.

Students should know that ethical journalists follow the four tenets of the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics: Seek Truth and Report It; Minimize Harm; Act Independently and Be Accountable and Transparent. Students can learn more about them by reading and studying them (find it here: www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp).

Another aspect to identifying fake news, said Jacobson, is to be aware of one's own beliefs and biases. "It can be very difficult to go beyond bias to investigate reports with different viewpoints, especially since our brains prioritize information consistent with our mental models of the world," she said. "Without taking that leap, however, students will naturally seek sources that affirm their own beliefs, overlook warning signals spurred by the questions above, and have little success identifying fake news."

Sources: politico.com, 1/16/18; medialiteracynow.com, 12/18/17; jccommunications.com, 1/11/18; educationweek.com, 7/28/17
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Title Annotation:Special Report
Publication:Curriculum Review
Date:Feb 1, 2018
Words:691
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