Toronto Star launches media literacy resource for students

By Nadine Chevolleau

TORSTAR Corporation

Toronto, Canada

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In fall 2018, The Toronto Star became a partner in The Trust Project, a global consortium of more than 30 news organisations working together to improve trust in journalism.

The Trust Project was founded by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman. The project’s objective is to strengthen public confidence in the news through accountability and transparency. In an article announcing the partnership, Star Editor Irene Gentle said, “We keep saying journalism matters but we weren’t showing how, or why, or what journalism actually is.”

The online resource, launched this year, explains the importance of fact checking, how a journalist conducts research, and more.
The online resource, launched this year, explains the importance of fact checking, how a journalist conducts research, and more.

This initiative has resulted in a regular trust feature in The Star. It aims to bring readers closer to the reporting and decision-making behind the stories we publish.

Understanding journalism is important for young people

Our News in Education (NIE) team often receives requests from schools to visit The Star newsroom. One recent request came from an English teacher who explained he wanted his students to acquire formal knowledge of what journalism is, including the writing process, gathering evidence, editing, and publishing.

Requests like this, as well as the increasing concerns about misinformation and public skepticism in the news media, are the inspiration behind a new media literacy resource we launched this year called For the Record.

For the Record, which means “so that the true facts are recorded or known,” is a monthly online resource introducing students to various aspects of journalism, including the importance of fact checking, how a journalist conducts research, a news librarian’s role, and many other topics. Our objective is to give young people a better understanding of how journalism happens by taking them behind the scenes and having journalists and other subject matter experts explain the news reporting process.

Each month, we interview a journalist about a specific topic then build complementary activities to encourage students and teachers to dig deeper into the subject. Many of the interviews are conducted by freelance journalist and author Joyce Grant, who co-founded a Web site for kids, educators, and parents called Teaching Kids News. She ensures the content is written in kid-friendly language. We also work with educators to get their feedback on the content and input on topics they want to see developed.

The resource includes voices from various media, not just The Toronto Star and not just the newspaper industry. We think this is important and makes for a more meaningful and inclusive resource.

Experiential learning: turning the newsroom into the classroom for teachers

The San Francisco Chronicle took the idea of transparency and educating the community about journalism to another level by inviting 55 teachers and librarians to participate in a News Literacy Camp. Editors from the Chronicle conducted their regular morning newsroom meeting on a stage as the teachers watched. The editors discussed the day’s news and what would be covered in the next day’s edition.

Teachers watched a live editorial meeting take place, then shared what they learned with their students.
Teachers watched a live editorial meeting take place, then shared what they learned with their students.

According to EdSurge, this event was organised by the News Literacy Project, a non-profit organisation launched in 2008 by an investigative reporter at the Los Angeles Times. The objective is to help educators teach students how to examine news and information with a more critical eye. After attending the camp, teachers returned to their classroom and shared what they learned with their students.

What’s next

We’ve had very positive feedback from teachers who say For the Record is very much needed and relevant to the curriculum. We are looking forward to building a robust archive of free resources that students, teachers, and parents can use to support their media literacy education.

Teaching how “real journalism” is done is key to helping young people understand what “fake news” looks like and how it falls short.

About Nadine Chevolleau

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