This is the latest installment of a weekly feature on this blog — lessons from the nonprofit News Literacy Project, which aims to teach students how to distinguish between what is real and what is not in this age of digital communication.

The material comes from the project’s newsletter, the Sift, which takes the most recent viral rumors, conspiracy theories, hoaxes and journalistic ethics issues and turns them into timely lessons with discussion prompts and links. The Sift, which is published weekly during the school year, has more than 10,000 subscribers, most of them educators.

The News Literacy Project also offers a program called Checkology, a browser-based platform designed for students in grades six through 12 that helps prepare the next generation to easily identify misinformation. Checkology is available free to educators, students, school districts and parents. Since 2016, more than 29,000 educators and parents in all 50 states and Washington have registered to use the platform. Since August, more than 1,000 educators and parents, and more than 34,000 students, have actively used Checkology.

You can learn more about the News Literacy Project and all of the educational resources it provides in this piece, but here is a rundown:

Founded more than a decade ago by Alan Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter at the Los Angeles Times, the News Literacy Project is the leading provider of news literacy education.

It creates digital curriculums and other resources, and it works with educators and journalists to teach middle school and high school students how to recognize news and information to trust — and it provides them with the tools they need to be informed and engaged participants in a democracy. It uses the standards of high-quality journalism as an aspirational yardstick against which to measure all news and information. Just as important, it provides the next generation with an appreciation of the First Amendment and the role of a free press.

Here’s material from the Feb 8. edition of the Sift:

Local newspapers vs. tech giants

A West Virginia-based newspaper publisher, HD Media, has filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against Google and Facebook, contending the tech giants are unfairly dominating the digital advertising market and putting the journalism industry at risk. Editor & Publisher, which first reported on the suit filed on Jan. 29, wrote it’s a “first-of-its-kind case.”

Quality journalism depends on funding from newspaper advertising revenue, which has fallen by more than 50 percent over the past 15 years, according to the suit. Tens of thousands of newspaper jobs also have vanished, representing a 60 percent decline in the industry since 1990. Google and Facebook, in the meantime, comprised more than half of all digital ad spending in the United States in 2019. The suit said: “The reduction in revenues to newspapers across the country, including [HD Media], were directly caused by Defendants’ conduct … and went directly into Google’s coffers.” While journalists and industry observers have been monitoring such trends for years, this legal action is a notable development in news organizations’ ongoing tensions with Big Tech.


Discuss: How have major tech companies dominated the advertising market? Do you think tech companies such as Google and Facebook are responsible for the decline of the news industry? Do these tech companies profit from the work of news organizations? Do they owe anything to the news industry? Why or why not? What are some consequences of a diminished local news industry? What might happen if smaller, local news organizations are forced to close for lack of revenue?


NO: Fox News did not fail to cover Brian D. Sicknick, the U.S. Capitol Police officer who died following the Jan. 6 insurrection, lying in honor in the Rotunda.

NO: The news clips in this TikTok video do not all show coverage from the same date and time.

YES: Fox News was criticized for devoting significantly less time than the other networks to President Biden and first lady Jill Biden paying their respects to Sicknick late in the evening on Feb. 2.

YES: Fox News carried a live feed of the memorial ceremony for Sicknick on Feb. 3 for about 24 minutes — from approximately 10:30 a.m. to about 10:54 a.m. Eastern time — during “America’s Newsroom,” hosted by Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino.

Note: The links above are from the Internet Archive’s television archive. The Fox News archive reflects the network’s West Coast broadcast and shows times in the Pacific time zone.

Idea: Show students this recording of the TikTok (note that this version has been edited to protect the user’s privacy and cut a profanity from the end), then ask for their reactions: How does this make you feel? What would you do if you encountered this online? If no students question the accuracy of the claim, ask: Is this strong evidence that Fox News did not carry any of the ceremonies honoring Sicknick? Is there a way to verify this claim? Then introduce students to the Internet Archive’s television archive, help them confirm the dates Sicknick was lying in honor at the Capitol (Feb. 2 and 3), and locate the actual coverage from Fox News and other networks.

NO: There is not only one airplane that is called Air Force One.

YES: The “Air Force One” call sign is used for any airplane with the president of the United States on board.

YES: There are smaller planes — like the C-32 model that President Biden took to Delaware on Feb. 5 — in the fleet that the Air Force uses to transport the president.

YES: The two planes most commonly referred to as “Air Force One” are based on the Boeing 747 airframe, like the one pictured at the top of this meme.

YES: As Snopes reported, President Donald Trump also used the C-32 as Air Force One.

Note: This is a narrative fragment of the extremist QAnon ideology that persists in maintaining the delusion that Biden’s inauguration was fake and that he is not actually president.

NO: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not issue an order “demanding” that people wear two masks.

YES: The CDC on Jan. 29 issued an order requiring passengers and operators of public transportation to wear a mask “made with two or more layers of a breathable fabric that is tightly woven” starting on Feb. 2.

NO: The recommendation to ensure that cloth masks have multiple layers of fabric is not new and was made earlier in the pandemic.

Note: As points out, following the sourcing of this distorted claim about the CDC order is a case study in how false assertions often spread online. The Ron Paul Institute cites ZeroHedge, a far-right libertarian site that began as a financial blog but expanded into false claims and fringe commentary. ZeroHedge credits a website called Planet Free Will, which attributes the story to the notorious far-right and health supplement outlet Infowars, which promotes misinformation and is owned by conspiracy theorist and provocateur Alex Jones.