Courier August/September Courier - Page 66

AFTERWORDS Fake news, real challenges Newseum uses in-depth, nonpartisan content to battle fake news BY BARBARA MCCORMACK TEACHERS’ QUESTIONS and concerns started rolling in more than a year ago. With the 2016 presidential election ramping up, educators had a sense early on that this one was different, and they were looking for new ways to bring cur- rent events into their classroom without sparking chaos. By the time the election was over, teachers weren’t the only ones sensing a bigger shift in the events around us and their coverage in the news media. “Fake news” became a buzzword. News producers and aggregators feared for their reputations, while news consum- ers feared for their sanity. Media lit- eracy was thrust into the spotlight, as educators and the general public alike demanded more tools to address this growing problem. At the Newseum—a private, nonprofit Washington, D.C., museum dedicated to explaining and defending the First Amendment—our mission has long led us to tackle controversial topics through the lens of the five freedoms: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. With all eyes on the media, we’re deter- mined to help build an understand- ing of freedom of the press that goes beyond pithy sound bites. In our exhibits, programs and classes for visiting students and adults, we explore how freedom of the press is a vital part of a democracy and depends on media savvy and critical thinking. In on-site and online activities, we prompt our visitors to wrestle with what it means that the First Amendment pro- tects not only good journalism, but also flawed or misleading attempts at news. By digging into the decision-making processes of journalists and teasing apart their own interactions with news and information, we make the case for why freedom of the press must be protected— even though it will always fall short of the ideal­—and why regulations or algorithms 64 August/September 2017 Students learn how to sort real news stories from fake ones during the Newseum’s “Fighting Fake News” classes. are unlikely remedies for biased, incom- plete or even false information. We’ve been teaching media literacy for two decades, but in response to the cur- rent political climate, we have brought these efforts to the fore and begun experimenting with new approaches. We launched a new class for visiting student groups called “Fighting Fake News: How Avenue. We launched our “Media Literacy Maven” video series to provide a more informal, fun way to share new media literacy strategies and fake news examples with an online audience. And two bright, bold infographics provide tips for how to “E.S.C.A.P.E. Junk News” and how to weigh whether a story is share-worthy. Both are available at to Outsmart Trolls and Troublemakers.” In this interactive session, students get inside the heads of fake news creators and learn strategies for identifying false information. To highlight the relevance to real life, students use our laptops and their own devices to go online and immediately put what they’ve learned to use in a timed “Real or Fake?” challenge. In the pilot phase alone, we’ve taught this class to over 1,750 students from schools right here in D.C. and from as far away as Alaska. Our resources aren’t only for those who can make the trip to Pennsylvania In addressing this vital issue, we know the stakes are high. But we choose to see this as a moment of opportunity to build on the buzz and provide in-depth, non- partisan content that is more important and valuable to the public than ever before. Some of the news out there may be fake, but our commitment to empow- ering news consumers is real. Barbara McCormack is vice president of education at the Newseum. The organization offers free learning resources, available at