Navigating the Media Minefield: Part 2

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Helping Students Identify Trustworthy Sources Online

By Kate Moore, Pear Deck Graphic Designer

Last week, we talked about a few ways to help your students judge the reliability of information they find online, and shared a Deck with practical examples you can present to your class. Today, let’s talk about a few more ways to decide whether something is a good source of online information.

Sensing Satire
We’ve all had a Facebook friend share an article they were up in arms about, only to have someone gently (or not-so-gently) point out to them that it’s from the Onion, Borowitz Report, or other satire sites. Sometimes, our own biases cloud our judgment so we don’t immediately recognize something as satire, and that’s OK! The trick is not to share these articles, or use them as a source, until we’re sure of what we’re reading. Here are some easy ways to detect satire:

  • Does this seem too good, funny, outrageous, or convenient to be true? Does it confirm my own personal beliefs?
  • Is the article from the Onion, Clickhole, Borowitz Report, Weekly World News, or National Report?
  • If not, can I find another trusted source reporting the same thing?
  • If not, when I paste the URL of the article into RealOrSatire.com, what does it tell me?

If you can’t verify what you’re reading through any of the above, it’s best not to share this information. Better safe than sorry, right?

Hyperbole
Finally, legitimate news sources are rarely interested in telling you that something is the BEST/WORST THING EVER. Typically, they’ll only make claims that are verifiable and quantifiable. They might tell you that Black Panther is the highest-grossing film of 2018, but they shouldn’t tell you it’s the best movie of 2018 (unless you’re in the opinion section!). They might tell you that someone is the first female congressperson in their state, but they shouldn’t tell you they’re the most important person in politics. If you’re seeing value judgments, and you’re not on a part of their site specifically dedicated to reviews and opinions, this likely isn’t a good source.

I know it seems next to impossible to find the nuggets of truth buried underneath all the advertising, satire, hyperbole and propaganda out there — but it isn’t! For some extra practice, we’ve made a handy flowchart you can share with your students. They can follow a series of investigative questions to decide whether a source is trustworthy.

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Download this flowchart here.

With time, your students can learn to cast a critical eye on the sources they seek out. For some practical examples, check out the Deck we’ve made for you right here!