Lesson 1: What is News Literacy and Why Does it Matter?

Stony Brook University has pioneered this course in News Literacy, because you are citizens of a democracy that heavily relies on the work of the news media. We teach students to find reliable information they need to take full command of the incredible powers that were reserved to every citizen under our constitution: the power to think for ourselves and to speak for ourselves as a means to govern ourselves. Used frivolously, these powers are easy to dismiss. Radio shlock jocks exercise free speech, but to what end?

Used thoughtlessly, your powers as citizens can also be dangerous.

  • Reacting to scared expressions by U.S. citizens, our government moved Japanese Americans out of their homes and into detention camps during World War II.
  • With the support of voters and Congress, African Americans were routinely denied equal treatment.
  • Using our power to think and speak for ourselves, citizens did that. It wasn’t some abstract THEM… it was US.

Used skillfully, our powers - to assemble peacefully, speak forcefully and govern ourselves - those powers often make America the gold standard for justice and freedom and a haven for the world’s freest and finest minds. But the constitution’s framers assumed citizens were worthy of these powers when they were well-informed. Information, reliable information that you can act upon is the foundation of self-governance. But the world is flailing its way through an information revolution of historic importance.

Analyzing and finding reliable information, is the point of this course on News Literacy.

You will be asking yourself:

What can I conclude from this news report?

How do I know I’m getting the truth?


In the Information Age, You the consumer are in charge of determining what is reliable and what is not.




Lesson 1 Contents: