I grew up in the age of Walter Cronkite and other very trusted news broadcasters. My family turned into Cronkite, affectionally known as “Uncle Walter” to many of us, every night, to hear CBS’ nightly news at 6:00 PM.
As a nation, these news broadcasts were critical to keeping us informed of world and national news. In my case, it conditioned me from an early age to trust these news reporters to dispense accurate and impartial news reports. The concept that they would even consider reporting on something that was not vetted and checked out in detail never even entered my mind. In fact, until the last 15-20 years or so, these national broadcasts were gospel to many of us “boomers” as CBS, ABC and NBC news were pragmatic and mostly on the money.
But since social media entered the scene and became a free platform for anything goes information, they have become mediums to dispense fake or false news stories as well as legitimate ones.
In a recent column I co-authored with Mark Sullivan at Fast Company, we asked the question if people can detect real from false news today and focused on a key program like the News Literacy Project that teaches our kids to tell the difference between true and fake news.
Here is an excerpt of what we wrote about the News Literacy Project:
The News Literacy Project was founded in 2008 by Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times reporter Alan Miller as a middle and high school classroom project in Washington, D.C.; New York City; and Chicago. Its lessons and materials are apolitical, created with input from real journalists. It teaches students how to recognize the earmarks of quality journalism and credible information, and how to know if articles are accurate and appropriately sourced. It teaches kids to categorize information, make and critique news judgments, detect and dissect viral rumors, interpret and apply the First Amendment, and recognize confirmation bias.
In one exercise, students are placed into the shoes of a young news reporter covering a breaking story. They’re asked to interview experts and eyewitnesses and review other material, then build a story piece-by-piece through multiple choice questions. They’re asked, in a sense, to think like a good journalist.
This era of social media and fake news has caused great confusion to many and has impacted how our younger generation views news. I consider the News Literacy Project and other programs that teach kids the fundamentals of how to discern real news from fake news a critical, foundational skill needed to navigate their future.
The News Literacy Project got quite a boost this week when Apple announced that they were backing this great program. This is a big deal and one that will make it possible for this educational program to reach many more young people.
Highly Respected retired journalist, Walt Mossberg, who sits on their board, tweeted this response to Apple’s investment in the News Literacy Project.
Grateful that @Apple has announced support for the @newslitproject as part of its new initiative to aid news literacy among students. Apple's grant is the biggest corporate gift in our 11-year history and will enable us to reach more students and teachers. https://t.co/KmKXo0stxH
— Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) March 19, 2019
I recently spent some time with a group of young people and asked them where they got their news. Not surprisingly, most did not get it in the more traditional way via the TV or radio. Many got news if they were even looking for it, on Facebook and Twitter or other social media sites.
When I asked about how they determined if the news they were reading was real or fake, their answers were fuzzy and all over the place. A lot of them read the news without even questioning it. Some said that even if they did question what they read, they did not do much to find out how accurate it was.
The role of educating our youth and helping them understand how to read news with a critical eye is a critical mission. Apple’s investment is a significant step in helping the News Literacy Project and the two other programs Apple will also invest in to achieve this goal.