The modern environment of 24-hour news and rapidly-reported events bombards students with information, but does not teach them to assess the reliability of that information. NewsTrust can help students develop what NewsTrust advisor Howard Rheingold calls 'Crap Detection': the ability to sort, assess, and identify bias.
When first arriving at the NewsTrust website, you will see a variety of news stories and broad current event topics. Registering for an account is not necessary to explore the site and the wealth of rich resources that lie within it. Click on 'Guides' in the top menu on the homepage to gain access to the educational resources. If you would like to register for an account, click the sign up button in the upper-righthand corner of the homepage. Sign up is incredibly easy and quick. Once you have completed registration you can start the process of evaluating news sources inside a collaborative, social network. If you intend to sign up your classes, the students would go through the same procedure for registration.
You can use the resources of NewsTrust in layers. The supplemental materials, including a guide to thinking like a journalist, work through a variety of readings and activities to analyze bias, sourcing, and perspective. If you want more than the instructional supplements, you can also set up groups for your students and jump into actually evaluating the news alongside the burgeoning NewsTrust community.
Within the community, students can participate in challenges such as News Hunts. A News Hunt is described as
. . .a bit like a scavenger hunt for quality news and information on important public issues. Each News Hunt lasts one to two weeks, during which NewsTrust members collaborate with a variety of partners to review a wide range of news stories on a chosen topic. At the end of the week, we recommend the best (and worst) news coverage on that topic, based on ratings from our community.
Although NewsTrust often sponsors these events, there is nothing stopping a classroom teacher from issuing their own News Hunt to the class. Digging up 'the news,' scavenger-hunt-style, can bring home its relevance to students.
Similarly, the NewsTrust Truthsquad actively collaborates with FactCheck.org and the Poynter Institute. Truthsquad members "help fact-check controversial statements from politicians, media pundits, and public figures." I intend to use participation in the Truthsquad in one of my classes to hone my students' skills for fact checking, research, and logic.
A year ago, I decided to use NewsTrust as a part of my Globalization class in an attempt to address the need for 'Crap Detection' while also engaging students in meaningful conversation around the global news of the day.
A typical introduction to NewsTrust for my class looked like this:
- Day One — Investigate global news sources, using the Newseum website
- Day Two — Read and discuss 'Crap Detection'
- Day Three — Review a story together as a class
- Day Four — Review a story in table groups
- Day Five — Locate a high-rated and a low-rated story and discuss in table groups the merits of each article and whether the evaluations were relevant and accurate
- Day Six — Review a story of interest individually
Throughout the rest of the semester, I assigned a series of challenges and tasks that required them to not only rate but also add stories to the NewsTrust bank of stories.
Pedagogically, I use NewsTrust for a number of reasons: it prompts students to distinguish between 'good' and 'bad' journalism, a skill paramount for an informed citizenry; it provides a community of thinkers for students and teachers to interact with; and it can help teach students to read and react to a number of varied sources and to network their inquiry and learning.
Remember that historical newspaper articles are as open to analysis as are modern ones! This video shows a student modeling assessment of a 1925 article on the Scopes Trial, while historian Barbara Clark Smith takes a look at an article from the colonies in 1775. For primary sources to work with, try searching our Website Reviews using the keyword 'newspapers' and the time period you're interested in.