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24th Apr 2019 4:12pm Blogs

We need a transformative news literacy intervention not just a list of top tips

Citizenship teacher attends news literacy workshop.

Blog – Helen Blachford

After a 2 hour drive from our hotel to Long Island we arrived on campus at Stony Brook University.  It is one of four university centres of the State University of New York system and was established in 1957. It currently has 26,236 students enrolled.

We were incredibly fortunate to spend about 5 hours at the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University where one of our hosts, Howard (Howie) Schneider, helped develop the US’s first course in News Literacy. He is also the Founding Dean of the School of Journalism and has an impressive history in the field! Howie was, for more than 35 years, a reporter and editor at American Daily Newspaper, Newsday. Under his tenure Newsday won eight Pulitzer Prizes. His co-host, Jonathan Anzalone PhD, was one of the Center’s first Graduate Teaching Fellows and is now Assistant Director. They made a great double act – they were informative, entertaining and, challenging in equal measure!

The Stony Brook News Literacy Curriculum

The workshop we took part in gave us an overview of the Stony Brook News Literacy curriculum, which is designed to teach students how to become more discerning news consumers – and has also been adapted for local high schools and middle schools. We were able to experience some of the curriculum resources for ourselves as well as develop our own thinking around news literacy. This was a real highlight of the trip for me and led to some deep learning which challenged me to re-evaluate my previous thinking and consider carefully how I can take the lessons learned back to my own setting in the UK and share this with others.

It’s difficult to try and sum up all we learned but I would like to try and capture some of the salient points here:

  • We need a transformative intervention not just a list of ‘top tips’ – if news literacy education is going to be transformative and part of our student’s DNA then it can’t wait until they are 18! Every 11 year old needs to ‘inoculated’ with the skills to help them think critically about the information presented to them!  It’s not as simple as having a checklist to go through – every piece of information, every story has to be evaluated.
  • Lines are blurring between what is reliable information and what is not – when you look at something you want young people and adults to look for ‘warning signs’ before deciding on whether to act on the information e.g. believe it, post it, re-post it.  Asking the right questions serve you on whatever platform you are getting your information from – teaching us to be ‘active’ news consumers is essential!
  • Having a common, agreed vocabulary is essential! We explored a number of foundational concepts during our workshop – unpicking each of these in relation to news literacy: truth and verification, and fairness, balance and bias. Words I thought I could clearly define but soon realised in the context of work on developing news literacy I had only scratched the surface previously!

I have learned so much from this experience and now have some fantastic contacts and resources to help me develop a much more comprehensive series of lessons which I hope will empower students to become more critical, perceptive, active news consumers! Watch this space and read all about it in the future…