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News Literacy


1. The News Environment

A guide to reading (and sharing) news in the "post-truth" world.

How do you decide what to see and believe? How does the web decide for you?

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Who publishes news?

Journalism has always been an industry that sells. But lately the push for ad clicks has eroded the firewall between newsrooms and revenue. How have news publishers changed their ethical boundaries?

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Who consumes and shares news?

You, your friends, your crazy uncle, and public figures and bots all amplify stories by sharing. What are your drives and motives? What are your responsibilities?

How is news being distributed?

Search engines and social media apps assess you constantly, and deliver news content to you via algorithms. How do those opaque algorithms affect what you see?


This guide tries to help you make sense of the whole news environment. When you encounter news, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who is the publisher?
  2. Who is the consumer/sharer?
  3. How is it being distributed?

Use this guide to learn more about how to answer these questions, and find tools to help you account for how each one of these areas affects the quality and accuracy of the news you find and share.

Share Responsibly

If you do nothing else, don't share information pollution!

  1. Stop: Don't let your moral outrage or approval push you into sharing information pollution.
  2. Read: Read the whole article, not just the headline. Who wrote it? Who published it? What are their purposes? Are claims supported by evidence? What's the ratio of pollution to solid information?
  3. Think: What's the benefit of sharing this? Will it deepen dialog? Or will it further entrench and polarize?

Who should use this guide?


This environment is new to all of us.

Neither students nor faculty in the disciplines generally approach news from the perspective of deep insider knowledge; discussing news in the classroom provides a point of contact where students and their instructors can jointly negotiate meaning. Though students evaluate news sources they might use in an assignment differently than they would for personal use, it is in discussions of news encountered through various non-academic channels where the academic and the personal are most likely to merge.

--Head, DeFrain, Fister, & MacMillan. Across the great divide: How today's college students engage with the news.

Looking for the old News Know-How guide?