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Are You A Smart News Consumer? Pro Tips And Tricks

Sorting truth from lies during any election can be a daunting task. But some educators see this election cycle as an important teachable moment.

Louise Basile chairs the social studies department at Boylan High School in Rockford.  “Students need to be taught to be critical thinkers about all experiences in life,” she says, “so they make informed choices and understand the consequences of them.”

That’s the reason Basile’s school added Digital Citizenship to the curriculum five years ago. Students learn to be more discerning about what they read, share, and believe in social media. This fall’s election will provide great examples for the classroom. Peter Adams is with the not-for-profit News Literacy Project.

“Always ask yourself ‘What is this piece of information? Who created it? What is its purpose?’ Take a look at its tone, take a look at the sourcing, and then check out other sources of information on the same topic. So never silo yourself and rely on a single source.”

Both Adams and Basile say the first step toward news literacy is to recognize your own bias. People tend to reach for information they already agree with. That can limit your world-view and even shut out differing opinions in future internet searches and social media interactions.

Adams recommends fact-checking any information before passing it along through social media: use established sites (such as Politifact, Snopes, and Factcheck.org) and reverse image searches (Tineye).  He says getting news from many different sources will help students…and adults…sort truth from fiction.

The News Literacy Project has been working with teachers across the country, including some in Rockford Public Schools, to implement its new e-learning program, Checkology.

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.