In this era of fake news, covfefe, and biased advocacy journalism outlets like Fox News and MSNBC, how can news consumers surf through this wave of information that bombards us daily?

When I ask my students whether they’ve received training in media literacy, they respond with shrugs and blank stares. Freshmen frequently cite obscure websites as sources in their papers instead of government documents or respected news sources. Try and on the legalization of medical marijuana, I tell them, not “Joe’s Weed page.”

A 2016 Stanford University study showed that middle school, high school, and college students have difficulty judging the credibility of online information and are frequently duped by fake news, biased sources, and sponsored content.

Given this lack of understanding, educators are pushing to improve news, media, and bias literacy. The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) publishes a literacy education journal and sponsors a Media Literacy Week every November. The Center for Media Literacy offers guidance, information, and teaching methods, including a MediaLit Kit to promote critical thinking about media. Media Literacy Now empowers grassroots efforts by providing policy and advocacy information, expertise, and resources to develop state laws that implement media-literacy education in schools.

Training in media literacy is in order

Last year, the Newseum in Washington hosted a three-day seminar on media literacy for teachers. The News Literacy Project works with teachers and journalists to teach middle school and high school students to be better informed news consumers. In Philadelphia, the Mighty Writers program featured a “Fake News Finders” workshop.

(Next page: State governments’ efforts to support media literacy education)

About the Author:

Larry Atkins teaches journalism at Temple and Arcadia Universities and is the author of Skewed: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Media Bias. Readers may email him at

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