The News Literacy Course Pack

computerctasize.pngThe Course Pack contains Stony Brook University’s complete, 14-week News Literacy course. The lessons help students recognize reliable news in a sea of misleading information, distinguish news reporting from opinion journalism, and much more. 

Below, you’ll find summaries of each lesson and links to the latest teaching materials. Each lesson can stand alone or easily be integrated into your curriculum

Updated Course Syllabus for Spring 2019


Lesson 1: What is News Literacy? Why Does it Matter in the Digital Age?

documents-35.pngNews Literacy Lesson 1 Course Pack - Updated SPRING 2019

  • The latest information revolution has transformed the way news consumers receive and spread information.  

    From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: Parallels between the first and latest information revolutions help us understand how profoundly the digital age has changed the way we get and share information.

    To find reliable, actionable information, today’s news consumers must overcome four challenges:  Speed vs. accuracy, information overload, a blurring of the lines that has resulted in a crisis of authenticity and, finally, our own bias.


Lesson 2: The Power of Information

documents-35.pngNews Literacy Lesson 2 Course Pack - Updated SPRING 2019

  • Use new vocabulary to describe the human need for information and categorize it into three broad types: Information that alerts, diverts and connects.

    Explain how technology amplifies the power of information

    Compare modern examples of the power of information to historic examples.

    Use specific events and examples to illustrate the power of information and why journalists risk their lives 


Lesson 3: Who Decides What's Newsworthy?

documents-35.pngNews Literacy Lesson 3 Course Pack - Updated SPRING 2019

  • 10 Universal News Drivers offer insight into why certain stories rise to the top of the news. The more news drivers a story has going for it, the more prominence it will receive. 

    The judgment of editors and, increasingly, the preferences of the audience also play a role in determining what’s deemed newsworthy. 

    Great images and compelling video also drive story play. 

    News outlets are also businesses, and because attracting and growing audiences are crucial, there's an inherent tension between providing news that people need and news they find interesting.


Lesson 4: What Makes News Different?

documents-35.pngNews Literacy Lesson 4 Course Pack - Updated SPRING 2019

  • Distinguish between information neighborhoods.

    Articulate how three traits define journalism as a source of reliable information.

    Use specific events and examples to illustrate clear understanding of independence and accountability.

    Make preliminary inquiries that reveal the reliability of a piece of information.


Lesson 5: Is it True? Part 1

documents-35.pngNews Literacy Lesson 5 Course Pack - Updated FALL 2018

  • Facts are observable and verifiable pieces of evidence. Journalistic truth is an effort to assemble facts in a fair and reliable way that explains what has happened, subject to further investigation. 

    Journalistic truth relies heavily on context, – the information needed to put facts into perspective. Isolated facts cannot relay the truth and may even mislead us. 

    Not all evidence is equal. Direct evidence is the most compelling.

    Always ask: What don’t I know? Reliable journalism is transparent about where information comes from and which facts are unknown.

    Statements can be verified through independent, reputable fact-checking sites, or independently by news consumers seeking direct evidence from authoritative sources.


Lesson 6: Is it true? Part 2: Verification

documents-35.pngNews Literacy Lesson 6 Course Pack - Updated FALL 2018

  • Technology—that makes it easy to manipulate evidence, and increases the speed and volume of information—has made it harder to sort fact from fiction. 

    Through verification -- one of the defining attributes of journalism -- statements can be checked using independent, reputable news or fact-checking sites, or independently by news consumers seeking direct evidence from authoritative sources.

    Your first step in fact-checking is to look for VIA. When checking for verification, note the use of direct evidence vs. indirect evidence.  

    It may be necessary to go beyond the site or social media account you’re evaluating and use online verification tools like search engines, reverse image searches,


Lesson 7: Evaluating Sources

documents-35.pngNews Literacy Lesson 7 Course Pack - Updated FALL 2018

  • Always ask “says who?” when evaluating the information in a news story.

    Apply the IMVAIN criteria to evaluate sources. An ideal source is:

    Independent (impartial)

    Multiple (corroborated)

    Verified (factual)

    Authoritative/Informed (knowledgeable)

    Named (fully identified)

    Ask “can I make a judgment?” on the quality of information

    Only act on or share information after you have evaluated its reliability


Lesson 8: Fairness and Balance - Part I (Is it Fair? Is it Biased?)

documents-35.pngNews Literacy Lesson 8 Course Pack - Updated FALL 2018

  • Fairness is achieved through fair presentation, fair language and fair play.

    Balance – equal time or space – can promote fairness or create false equivalencies.

    Bias is a pattern of unfairness seen over time in a news outlet’s coverage (not in its ads or opinion journalism).

    Cognitive dissonance and the rise of partisan news outlets fuel audience bias and a distrust of the news media.

    To find the truth, news consumers should seek out journalism from a variety of news outlets and opinions they disagree with.


Lesson 9: Fairness & Balance - Part II (The Filter Bubble and You)

documents-35.pngNews Literacy Lesson 9 Course Pack - Updated FALL 2018

  • Understand algorithms, know the limits of your social network, challenge your own biases, know the difference between reporting, opinion, and bloviation.

    Neither rank nor popularity equal reliability.

    Don’t confuse the sharer of information with the producer.

    Keep in mind the impact a news outlet’s target audience and business model may have on story selection and play.

    Pay attention to labels, language, and look for VIA, to tell news and opinion apart, and to spot bloviation.


Lesson 10: Deconstructing The News

documents-35.pngNews Literacy Lesson 10 Course Pack - Updated Fall 2018

  • This 7-step deconstruction process uses News Literacy concepts to analyze and dispassionately judge a report's reliability.

1. Summarize the main points and then check if the headline and the lead support the main point(s) of the story?
2. How close does the reporter come to opening the freezer? Is the evidence direct or “arm’s-length?”
3. Evaluate the reliability of the sources using IMVAIN.
4. Does the reporter make his or her work transparent?
5. Does the reporter place the story in context?
6. Are the key questions answered?
7. Is the story fair?


Lesson 11 : The Medium is the Message

documents-35.pngNews Literacy Lesson 11 Course Pack - Updated FALL 2018

  • Newspapers and magazines still offer the most comprehensive coverage, but market forces, technological advances and demographic changes have dramatically reduced their resources and reach.

    Radio has survived by maintaining an intimacy and immediacy and developing its own style of storytelling.

    TV news is still the most powerful tool for following breaking news stories with compelling visuals, but it exists in an entertainment medium. 


Lesson 12: Deconstructing Digital Media

documents-35.pngNews Literacy Lesson 12 Course Pack - Updated FALL 2018

  • News websites and search engines have broadened the reach of news consumers while presenting them with new challenges — information overload, questions of authenticity and confirmation bias — in their pursuit of reliable information. A key lesson: Ranking on search engines does not necessarily indicate the reliability of a website or piece of information found online. 
  • The explosion of social media and the evolution of the news consumer from observer to news producer have brought not only a powerful level of engagement but also the proliferation of misinformation.