The quote above from Joshua Johnson struck a cord with me when I saw it on Twitter this week. In talking about 'Fake News' I fear I have contributed to diminishing the integrity of the journalistic field.
The term "fake news" has become an oxymoron we see in the headlines every day. The news is about fake news...confusing? As teachers we use the term "fake news" to teach students to stop, think and evaluate. Politicians use the term to point fingers at news they do not like.
"If it is fake, it is not news."
The Internet has created an information explosion where news happens in real time but then gets shared and distorted through social media and other outlets. We are lucky to live in a country with the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. But this freedom also allows for fake, false information out there so what do we call it?
I have chosen to replace "fake news" with NEW IMPOSTERS in my news literacy lessons. I have also decided to include the role of journalists and their verification process in my unit.
There are many journalists and media outlets that are committed to providing accurate news. However, students need to understand that they need to get information straight from those outlets and not from just a headline (READ the article) or a friend's interpretation in a social media post.
Students need to understand that there different types of journalists. Some give commentary on the news and we, the consumers of news, need to listen for any bias in those editorials. We need to look for other perspectives on the issue before forming their own opinion.
Some journalists risk their lives reporting news from war zones, revolutions and disasters. They are dedicated to keeping the world informed, even in the most dangerous situations, and to give a voice to those who have none.
Even in the 21st century there are many countries where journalists are assassinated for their work. Lasantha Wickrematunge was the editor of Sri Lanka's Sunday Leader. He knew the risks he was taking as a journalist and wrote an article in case something were to happen to him. He was assassinated on January 9, 2009. Three days later the article was published. He wrote this in the article:
"The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it."
News literacy lessons should include the important work of the real journalists in our world. I want my students to walk away with more than just the skills to identify news imposters, I want them to critically evaluate the role of the press and media in our society.
- What would happen if we lived in a country without free press?
- What if the media was controlled by the government?
- What if reporters in the USA could be executed for reporting a story they did not like?
- What would happen to our world if there were no journalists or no news?
- Is it important for journalists to put their lives at risk to report the news?
- What is the role of news commentary and editorials?
- Should news imposters be punished? Why? How?
Thank you Joshua Johnson for forcing me to stop, think and evaluate.