Day 3: Understanding bias

Bias lesson cover art

Look inward and outward

In this lesson from the Checkology® virtual classroom, you'll discover how biases — your own and others' — can affect how you perceive what you're reading, watching and hearing.

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Additional resources

  • Download and print this poster outlining five types of bias and five forms that bias can take in news coverage (PDF).
  • Share, display or print this News Lit Tip about lateral reading.
  • Watch this Newsy Brief on evaluating partisan news outlets.
  • Check out this audiogram recorded by Paul Sheer, host of the podcast “Unspooled,” on how to spot a bot. The News Literacy Project and The E.W. Scripps Company created a series of public service announcements streaming on Stitcher to raise awareness of the importance of news literacy and the role of the free press in American democracy.
Checkology on laptop

Want more Checkology?

Young people are dealing with the most complex information landscape in human history — one in which truth, evidence and facts compete for attention with falsehoods, conspiracy theories and misinformation. Education is the most effective approach to meeting this challenge. The Checkology virtual classroom, from the News Literacy Project, provides that education.

Educator Extra:

Prompts for discussion

  • How do you evaluate news media bias?
  • What are some causes of news media bias?
  • Are most instances of news media bias overt (obvious), or are they a matter of perception (debatable)?
  • Are most instances of news media bias intentional or incidental?
  • Are all sources of news and other information equally biased?
  • What do you do when you see a piece of news or other information that you believe is overtly biased?
  • If all people are biased by nature, can they do anything to reduce or minimize the influence of their biases?
  • Are people at the mercy of their biases, or can they put their biases aside?
  • If you were in charge of a news organization, what policies would you implement to minimize bias in your news reports?

Go deeper

Ask students to create a profile of their own biases that identifies the topics most likely to provoke a strong emotional reaction in them (for instance, the social and political issues on which they have strong perspectives and feelings). You might ask them to create a visual map or other representation of these biases. Students could also be asked to keep a journal in which they record when they suspect that their biases might be influencing the way they approach or respond to a piece of information (whether a news report, a social media post, a rumor, a viral video or a meme).

Challenge students to select a subject about which they have a particularly strong belief, then ask them to complete two tasks that run against this bias. First, ask them to find a piece of opinion journalism that affirms their belief and has received positive attention (“likes” or shares on social media, for example), but is problematic in some way (it is not well-reasoned, it uses evidence that is not credible, it includes misinformation, it is not fair, etc.). Second, ask them to find another piece of opinion journalism that contradicts their belief, has also received positive attention and is well-reasoned, uses credible evidence and verified information to support its points, and is fair. Students can share their thoughts on this experience in a journal entry or with the class.

Take informed action

Ask students to spend up to one week following one or more controversial issues more closely than usual (including comments from websites, social media, etc.) and record each instance they find of people alleging media bias (whether pundits, politicians, or ordinary people commenting and discussing online). After the collection period is over, students can share how many accusations they documented and analyze the validity of the allegations of bias: As an example, pairs or teams of students might sort examples of alleged bias into three groups — substantive, unfounded and not sure. Or they might select one notable example to evaluate and explain to the class.


Brain teasers

Test your news literacy know-how with our free app, Informable. Score points for accuracy and speed across four modes, each with three levels of difficulty.