GSAN: Student press freedoms | Royal rumors | ‘Prebunking’ works


Learn news literacy this week
Student press freedoms | Royal rumors | 'Prebunking' works


Note: Get Smart About News® is back to its regular format for the 2022-23 school year! Each week we’ll bring you a concise roadmap of the week’s top news literacy topics and viral rumor examples, with tips and takeaways from the NLP team. Be sure to watch for special features like our monthly News Goggles resources. As always, we welcome your feedback to help us ensure that this newsletter is as useful as possible.


Top picks

Young Americans “are more engaged in more ways than people give them credit for,” but are reportedly worn out by the news and enjoying it less, according to a new survey by Media Insight Project. About 79% of young Americans ages 16 to 40 — which includes millennials and members of Generation Z — say they get the news daily, but the sources they turn to vary. While about 45% of respondents say they use traditional news sources daily, nearly 80% get news each day from social media platforms, including Facebook (40%), YouTube (37%), Instagram (34%) and TikTok (29%). Additionally, a whopping nine out of 10 people in this age group say misinformation is a problem.
There’s a battle over censorship at a journalism and communications magnet school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Students noticed their librarian left after a vaccine mandate was implemented — effectively closing their school library — and reported it in their school newspaper. When school administrators and the librarian demanded her name be removed from the story online, the students refused. The school district penalized the students’ newspaper advisor with a three-day unpaid suspension, even though legal counsel through the Student Press Law Center found that the students’ reporting was within their First Amendment rights.

The students subsequently published an article about the suspension of their teacher, Adriana Chavira, and an editorial, “They don’t respect us as student journalists.” The students wrote: “In California, student journalists are granted much of the same rights as professional journalists, per California Ed Code 48907. These rights mean that the district has no authority to retaliate against our adviser or to censor the content we cover.”
When students are taught media literacy or critical thinking skills, they’re 26% less likely to believe in a conspiracy theory. That’s one of many takeaways in a new report by the Reboot Foundation, which examines the link between low science and media literacy and conspiracy beliefs. Science knowledge also proved to be a boon, as survey respondents who scored high on the foundation’s science quiz were nearly 40% less likely to believe a conspiracy theory. Support for media literacy in schools was overwhelmingly high, with 84% of respondents saying they felt it should be required.

Viral rumor rundown

No, the BBC didn’t change its website banner to black before Queen Elizabeth II’s death

A tweet reads “BBC has changed its website banner from red to black as the entire UK Royal Family goes to Queen Elizabeth’s bedside. Looks like the inevitable news is being prepared #QueenElizabeth” and shows a screenshot of the BBC’s website. The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “NO CHANGE.”

NO: The BBC did not change the banner on its homepage from red to black in preparation for Queen Elizabeth II's passing. YES: The standard banner on the BBC homepage has long been black, while the standard banner on the BBC News homepage is red.

NewsLit takeaway: Major breaking news events result in a flood of information. As everyone rushes online to share updates, speculate about recent developments and post jokes, criticism and hot takes, it creates a confusing landscape to navigate. When this claim was shared on social media, many people (including a couple members of the News Literacy Project) accepted this rumor as fact because it seemed intuitively true. Remember to pause and critically examine the claims on your feed before amplifying posts that could potentially spread false information.


Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was not an ‘American Idol’ contestant

A tweet reads, “Marjorie Taylor Greene’s try out for the first season of American Idol under a stage name lmao. What a loser,” and features a video of a woman auditioning for the show. The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “NOT REP. GREENE.”

NO: This is not a video of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene auditioning for the first season of “American Idol.” YES: This video features singer Stefanie Sugarman and her unsuccessful audition during the show’s first season.

NewsLit takeaway: Confirmation bias often causes people to uncritically embrace falsehoods that support their existing views. In this case, some critics of Greene may have accepted this false claim without pausing to raise questions about its authenticity simply because they wanted it to be true, since it provided an opportunity to mock the Georgia congresswoman. If they would have examined this message a bit more closely, they may have noticed a few red flags:

  • The claim was made without evidence. Anyone can add a caption to a video and claim it shows something that it does not. No links were provided to any sources that could support the claims in this tweet.
  • This video was posted by a politically partisan account. While that does not by itself mean the claims are false, content from clearly biased sources should cause readers to pause. Was this message posted to score political points or was it posted to relay factual information?

Beyond these red flags, there’s also the fact that Greene would have been 27 years old in 2001 — three years older than the age limit to audition for “American Idol” at that time. Greene’s spokesperson told Lead Stories that the woman in the video “doesn’t look like [Greene] and obviously isn’t her.”


Photo of ‘devastated’ King Charles III was taken days before Queen Elizabeth II’s death

A tweet dated Sept. 8, 2022, reads, “I just saw this photo and started crying. Literally crying” and features a picture of Charles in a car. The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “PHOTO PREDATES QUEEN’S DEATH.”

NO: This photograph does not show King Charles III’s reaction to news that his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, has passed away. YES: This is a genuine photograph of Charles that was taken on Sept. 4 as he left a church service.

NewsLit takeaway: It is easy to get caught up in the moment during a breaking news event. As we try to keep up with the flood of information in our social media feeds, it’s tempting to take things at face value so we can keep scrolling. When a photograph of a devastated-looking Charles started circulating after news of Elizabeth’s death, many accepted it as genuine because it was poignant and because it just felt true. When an image is paired with a claim, especially during a major event, it’s natural to perceive a connection.

Imagine an ad airing before your YouTube video that psychologically boosts your resilience against misinformation by displaying examples in pop culture of common manipulation techniques, such as false dichotomies or scapegoating. New research found this form of prebunking, or preemptive debunking, is largely effective in the fight for facts — a good thing since YouTube is now described as the world’s most influential media company.
Before YouTube had its recommended videos algorithm, content was curated by a team of so-called “coolhunters.”
An elected county official was arrested in connection with the killing of Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German, who was stabbed to death outside his home on Sept. 2. Prosecutors linked German’s investigative coverage of the politician to the crime, and his death sparked renewed concerns about violence against journalists.
Independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta was effectively banned from operating in the country after a Moscow court stripped it of its media license. Editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov plans to fight the ruling, which he said had no legal basis. Muratov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his efforts to support press freedoms.
Chevron recently swooped into a local news desert in Texas with the launch of Permian Proud, a sponsored content site that advances the company’s interests with “a mixture of local news and propaganda.”
It can be hard to decipher whether a Twitter screenshot is fake or real, but a BBC disinformation reporter has several useful tips to help.

Thanks for reading!

Your weekly issue of Get Smart About News is created by Susan Minichiello (@susanmini), Dan Evon (@danieljevon), Peter Adams (@PeterD_Adams), Hannah Covington (@HannahCov) and Pamela Brunskill (@PamelaBrunskill). It is edited by Mary Kane (@marykkane) and Lourdes Venard (@lourdesvenard).

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