GSAN: News-literate Election Day | Campaign rumors | Requiring news literacy education?


Learn about news literacy this week
News-literate Election Day | Campaign rumors | Requiring news literacy?


Be news-literate on Election Day

Getting a clear, accurate understanding of election results is often difficult, but for many people this year that task seems overwhelming. Here are three steps you can take to ensure a news-literate Election Day — in 2020 and beyond:

  1. Do some homework
  2. Make an information plan
    Improvising your way through election night information is a recipe for confusion. Make a clear plan and be deliberate about what news and other updates you’ll follow, using these tips as a guide:
    • Pick a limited number of standards-based news organizations at the national, state and local levels to follow, then stick with their coverage. You could toggle between one national and one local outlet on TV, then limit your phone or computer use to a handful of other reputable sources.
    • If you must use social media, avoid obsessively refreshing your feed or following hashtags that can be (mis)used by anyone, including those who wish to spread disinformation and confusion. Instead, focus on the accounts of reputable news outlets and journalists, or make a Twitter list of credible sources and follow it — or use this one from NLP.
    • Related: “The Fix’s 2020 list of outstanding politics reporters to follow in every state” (Natalie Jennings, The Washington Post).
  3. Anticipate misinformation
    No one knows exactly what Election Day will bring, but experts anticipate a lot of false and misleading claims to circulate online. Be ready for:
    • Raw video and photos of polling places, both authentic and out-of-context. Remember that rumors about long lines and threats to voters are known voter intimidation tactics and that “instant communication magnifies political violence.” Think twice before amplifying viral posts about isolated, local incidents.
    • Baseless allegations of voter fraud by bad actors intent on fabricating doubt about the integrity of the election.
    • Misinterpretations of poll data and electoral maps.
    • Fake tweets created to appear like they’re coming from candidates and official sources shared as screenshots rather than links to verified accounts.
    • Falsehoods and bad takes from people you generally trust. With emotions running high and trolls working overtime, some well-meaning people who ordinarily know better will spread falsehoods and confusion. Tune them out and stick to standards-based sources until things calm down.
    • Related: “Uncertainty and Misinformation: What to Expect on Election Night and Days After” (Election Integrity Partnership).

Viral rumor rundown

NO: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden did not mistakenly say “Hello Minnesota!” to a crowd in Tampa, Florida. YES: He said this to a crowd in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Oct. 30. YES: The words “Tampa, Florida” were added to the sign behind Biden in a short clip of his speech that was doctored. YES: The actual sign read “Text MN to 30330.”


NO: President Donald Trump did not call for the assassination of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden while giving a speech at a rally in Lansing, Michigan, on Oct. 27. YES: Trump claimed that Biden would only last three weeks in office as president before his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, would need to take over, and then said, “That’s why they’re talking about the 25th Amendment, right? Three weeks. Three weeks in, Joe’s shot. ‘Let’s go, Kamala, are you ready?’” NO: This is not the first time Trump has used the word “shot” in an attempt to draw Biden’s fitness for office into question.


NO: Joe Biden did not confuse President Trump with former president George W. Bush as he spoke at his virtual “I Will Vote” concert and fundraiser on Oct. 25. YES: During an interview with comedian and actor George Lopez at the event, Biden stammered in the middle of a sentence and said the name “George” twice in a halting sentence about Trump. YES: An out-of-context clip of that moment went viral after it was shared by the Trump campaign along with the claim that Biden thought his opponent was Bush. YES: The Today show aired the misleading clip and uncritically reported on the gaffe without mentioning that Lopez was the interviewer.


NO: The woman pictured in the top right of this TikTok video is not a “body double” standing in for first lady Melania Trump. YES: It is Melania Trump. YES: Baseless conspiracy theories about body doubles for the first lady have circulated for years.

Note: False body double rumors about Sen. Kamala Harris are also spreading in the final days of the campaign.


★ NewsLit Picks

Featured: “Student Opinion: Should Media Literacy Be a Required Course in School?” (Michael Gonchar and Jeremy Engle, The New York Times).

This New York Times piece, published during Media Literacy Week (Oct. 26 to 30), asks students to weigh in on whether news and media literacy should be required at their schools, how they get their news and whether they have “ever fallen for misinformation or fake news of some kind.” Nearly 200 U.S. and international students posted responses as of Nov. 2. Brooks Edmonson, of Bryant High School in Arkansas, shared this: “With a class dedicated to teaching students this in school, students could learn to be more critical thinkers and be more careful on the internet. I know I would benefit from having a class like this, and I’m sure students all over the country would as well.”

Note: According to a 2020 report by Media Literacy Now, an advocacy group, 14 states have taken legislative steps to require media literacy education in schools. Florida and Ohio have the strongest requirements.


Quick Picks:

“KSP training slideshow quotes Hitler, advocates ‘ruthless’ violence” (Satchel Walton and Cooper Walton, Manual RedEye).

“Can you outsmart a troll (by thinking like one)?” (Claire Wardle, TED-Ed).

  • Resource: Bad News, an interactive game created by Drog, a European media literacy collective working to combat disinformation.

“Improving ethnic diversity is the most important diversity priority for newsrooms around the world, a new report says” (Hanaa’ Tameez, Nieman Lab).

Thanks for reading!

Your weekly issue of Get Smart About News is created by Peter Adams (@PeterD_Adams), Suzannah Gonzales and Hannah Covington (@HannahCov) of the News Literacy Project. It is edited by NLP’s Mary Kane (@marykkane).

Sign up to receive NLP Connections (news about our work) or switch your subscription to the educator version of Get Smart About News called The Sift® here.


Check out NLP's Checkology virtual classroom, where students learn how to navigate today’s information landscape by developing news literacy skills.