Students today are increasingly turning to online new sources to meet their research needs. Because of this, it is important for educators to teach students about trustworthy news sources and separating real news from fake news—but how can teachers impart these media literacy skills when trends in journalism are constantly shifting?

In “Media Literacy: A Crash Course in 60 Minutes,” hosted by edWeb.net and sponsored by Mackin Educational Resources, Michelle Luhtala, Library Department Chair at New Canaan High School, CT, interviewed Greg Toppo, the National Education and Demographics reporter for USA Today, about today’s shifting trends in journalism and how teachers can help students identify reliable sources.

Know 4 Qualities of Good Journalism

“Is there such a thing as objective journalism?” asked Luhtala, beginning the interview. Greg answered by explaining that good journalism should always include four qualities:

  • Journalism should be complete, including all sides and spectrums of a story
  • It should be honest, letting people know of any biases
  • It should be accurate and fact-checked down to every last detail
  • Journalism should be fair, regardless of any biases involved

“If you can be complete, honest, accurate, and fair, objectivity shouldn’t even matter,” he said.

Consider How the Content is Sponsored

It is also important to understand where good journalism comes from. “Do you think that educators ought to explain the difference between ‘free news’ and subscription news to our students?” Luhtala asked, addressing the confusion students might face between the two.

Greg responded, “Absolutely, I think it is a good idea for teachers to say, ‘this thing is free, but how do you imagine it’s being paid for?’”

He went on further to explain what  “free” really means—everyone involved must be paid for the job they do. Having such conversations with students can be helpful to understand the kinds of prices that are paid for access to information.

(Next page: The role of social media in media literacy)