News Goggles: News or opinion? Excerpts related to The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project

Grades: 7-9, 10-12+

News Goggles annotations and activities offer news literacy takeaways on timely topics. These resources feature examples of actual news coverage, including full news reports, headlines, breaking news alerts or excerpts. 

This News Goggles resource originally appeared in a previous issue of The Sift newsletter for educators, which explores timely examples of misinformation, addresses journalism and press freedom topics and examines social media trends and issues. Read archives of the newsletter and subscribe here. 

Recognizing the difference between news and opinion is a core news literacy skill. Straight news coverage primarily seeks to be as fair, accurate and impartial as possible, while opinion writing generally shares a specific point of view. In this edition of News Goggles, we want to keep these distinctions in mind as we examine the ongoing debate over The New York Times Magazine’s award-winning 1619 Project, which marks the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in America.

The project, first published in August 2019, attracted renewed attention after a New York Times opinion column criticizing the project appeared online on Oct. 9, 2020. Grab your news goggles and let’s examine short excerpts from four different pieces related to the 1619 Project — including an excerpt from the project itself — to determine whether these examples are news or opinion.

 Featured News Goggles resources: Download our full annotations in Microsoft Word or as a PDF. Also, these classroom-ready slides offer a guided activity on this  topic. 

Note: Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the Times, published an editor’s noteon Oct. 13, 2020, defending the 1619 Project in light of renewed criticism. For a fuller explanation of editor’s notes and the purposes that they serve, check out the News Goggles materials in the Oct. 5, 2020, issue of the Sift. 

Idea: Discuss the differences between news and opinion. Ask students to evaluate and categorize these two examples (here and here). The first shows letters to the editor about the 1619 Project and is opinion. The second is a Sept. 17, 2020, straight news tweet from ABC News. Then, challenge students to look at other recent comments about the 1619 Project on social media and coverage on news websites to determine whether each is news or opinion. 

Related: “A deeper look into the controversy of The New York Times’ ‘1619 Project’” (Tom Jones, Poynter). 

Resources: “InfoZones” (NLP’s Checkology® virtual classroom), “Understanding Bias” (NLP’s Checkology® virtual classroom) and Informable®(NLP’s free mobile app). 

Have feedback about this resource? Or an idea for a future News Goggles? Please share it with us at thesift@newslit.org. You can also use this guide for a full list of News Goggles from the 2020-21 school year for easy reference. 


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