Can You Trust the News?
NEWS / INTERNET
Journalism students at Stanford University use NewsTrust to build their news literacy skills. Teachers: Howard Rheingold, Fabrice Florin. Photo by David Fox
How can you help your students become discerning news consumers and well-informed citizens? How do you teach them to recognize the difference between good journalism and misinformation?
This teacher guide will show you how to teach core principles of media literacy and journalism through a hands-on, 45-minute classroom activity. This activity can be used in college and high school classes (grades 11, 12 and AP), for studies in communications, civics, current events, history, journalism, language arts, multimedia, social studies, and/or web literacy.
For this project, you will use a review form developed by NewsTrust to help people find good journalism online (learn more about us on our About page). The NewsTrust review form will help your students evaluate the quality of news and opinions – and develop their media literacy skills.
This teacher guide includes:
- lesson plan
- teacher notes
- homework assignment
- more activities
We also offer an online student guide, which includes:
- student overview
- link to sample story and review form
- review tips
If your students do not have access to the Internet in your classroom, please download the printed version (PDF) of this guide from our site.
Before your class, we recommend that you read our quick review tips on how to review a story, as well as the other guides on our site.
We also invite you to sign up as a NewsTrust member and review a story on our site, using this special welcome page for teachers.
For any questions about using NewsTrust in your classroom, email us at .
Thanks for using NewsTrust to help your students become more discerning about the news they consume. Learning how to recognize good journalism will empower them throughout their lives: they will become more savvy news consumers and make more informed decisions as citizens.
Lesson plan (45 minutes)
This classroom activity will help students learn and practice core principles of journalism and media literacy. It is intended for students with classroom access to the Internet. (If your students do not have Internet access, please download the printed version (PDF) of this guide from our site, which includes student worksheets you can print out for them).
1. Introduction (10 minutes)
Ask students how they get the news (TV, radio, online, newspapers) – and from which news sources. Then ask them if they trust the news they read, hear or watch. Explain that some news stories and opinions are not always true, so we all need to pay close attention to the information we consume. Tell them that a nonprofit site called NewsTrust.net has developed an easy way to help them tell apart fact from fiction.
Then introduce the assignment and ask students to go to this welcome page on their computers: http://newstrust.net/students. Once they have signed up on this page, students should follow the step-by-step instructions in their online student guide. They will read the story linked on that guide, then rate it using the NewsTrust review form. (You can go over the review form now – or before #3, when the students are about to rate the story.)
2. Read the story (10 minutes)
Ask students to read the story linked in their student guide. (You can direct students to read the story silently by themselves – or have one student read it aloud for the class.)
3. Rate the story (10 minutes)
Ask students to rate the story, clicking on the yellow “Review” button on that page to show the NewsTrust review form. Make sure that students select the ‘Quick Review’ form (using the dropdown menu at the top right corner of their online review form). Students can rate the story individually – or they can be paired up to discuss and decide the ratings together. While students rate the story, you can walk around the room and answer questions. Note that it is also possible to ask the entire class to review together as a group, for a more lively discussion.
When students have answered all rating questions, they can click the yellow “Save” button to save their review and compare their ratings to other students.
4. Discuss the story (15 minutes)
Ask what overall ratings the students gave the story. Take a show of hands: Who rated it above a 4? Between 3 and 4? In the 2 range? Why?
Is this story good or bad journalism? What is it missing? How could it be improved?
Ask students to share why (or why not) they thought the story contained quality information. Discuss anything else that students notice. Then remind them they can use this review form as a checklist next time they read, watch or listen to the news. This will help them recognize good (or bad) journalism.
Homework Assignment (Optional)
If you would like to give a homework assignment (e.g., review another story), explain it to the students now. Read more about homework assignments on the next page.
Stories reviewed on NewsTrust get an overall rating, based on reviews by our members. The higher the rating, the higher the quality of the story.
So, how did your students rate this story? Read the guidelines below to find out:
- Rating of 4.0-5.0: Very good. This is a factual, fair and well-sourced story. The writer carefully crafted the piece to make the reader aware of key facts, crucial details and all major stakeholder viewpoints.
- Rating of 3.5-3.9: Good. This story is still generally factual, fair and well-sourced, though less so. It could be missing a key fact, favors one side of the story, or does not cite important stakeholders.
- Rating of 2.5-3.4: Average. This story is informative, but has a few flaws which raise questions about its accuracy, fairness or sourcing.
- Rating of 1.5-2.4: Poor. The story is missing key elements of good journalism: it is not factual, not fair or not well-sourced.
- Rating of 1.0-1.4: Bad. The story has serious flaws. It is not factual or fair, or may have too few sources. It may also have other flaws that impact its overall quality.
The news story featured on the student guide gets an average rating on NewsTrust (between 2.5 and 3.5). NewsTrust gives it this average rating because it has a number of flaws that make its information questionable. The student guide also links to more stories for review, which you can ask the students to rate during class – or in homework assignments.
If you like, you can give this optional homework assignment to your students:
Find a news story online – or in a newspaper or magazine. Print it out (if it's online) or cut it out (if it's in print).
Use a blank NewsTrust review form from your student worksheet to review and rate your story. Bring the story and completed review form to class and be ready to discuss what you learned.
If you have a computer at home, you can also sign up on the NewsTrust site and review the story online, then print both your review and the original story and bring them to class. Be sure to sign up on this special page for students: http://newstrust.net/students
The above NewsTrust lesson plan can be adapted for a variety of subjects. It can also be expanded from a one-day activity to a multi-day unit supporting the study of language arts, computer skills, public speaking, journalism and civics. Some of our educational partners use NewsTrust as an ongoing resource to find quality journalism online.
For ideas on how to use NewsTrust for more activities, check our Activities page.
For more information, check our other guides and educational resources.