With news available at the tap of a finger, keyboard, or remote, we are often exposed to a barrage of news media. Some of it is high quality, informational news, while other pieces may be riddled with biases, inaccuracies, and misinformation. That’s why it’s so important for students to learn to properly evaluate the news they’re consuming. Read on for an exploration of news media literacy and the importance of critical thinking in supporting it.
News Media Literacy
News media literacy is the ability to critically analyze, evaluate, and interpret the information presented in news media. It involves understanding how news is produced, identifying bias and misinformation, and being able to distinguish between fact and opinion. In our modern world, where information is instantly available and constantly changing, news media literacy has become an essential skill for individuals of all ages to navigate the media landscape and make informed decisions.
Students being taught news media literacy develop a variety of interrelated and crucial skills and knowledge. They learn to identify when news sources are presenting biased or misleading information and to seek out additional sources to confirm or refute claims. News literacy also helps students understand how news is produced and distributed, including the role of journalists, media organizations, and the impact of social media on the news cycle.
- More intrinsically motivated to consume news
- More skeptical
- More knowledgeable about current events
This is important because it can help prevent the spread of misinformation and disinformation, both of which can have serious consequences, such as spreading false information about health, elections, or social issues. News media literacy skills can help students recognize harmful reporting or sharing, and take steps to stop their spread.
The difference news media literacy makes is not limited to the student alone, but can also impact their wider community. Authors Hobbs et al. explore this concept in their article “Learning to Engage: How Positive Attitudes about the News, Media Literacy, and Video Production Contribute to Adolescent Civic Engagement.” They found that “the best predictors of the intent to participate in civic engagement are having positive attitudes about news, current events, reporting, and journalism.”
Given its importance and wide-ranging impact, news media literacy is an essential part of education today. Here’s how teachers can use critical thinking to build up news literacy—and vice versa—in their students.
Critical Thinking Skills for News Literacy
Critical thinking is a key component of news media literacy, as it allows individuals to assess the accuracy and credibility of news sources, identify biases and misinformation, and make informed decisions. Critical thinking involves questioning assumptions, evaluating evidence, and considering multiple perspectives, which are all crucial skills for navigating our complex and constantly evolving media landscape. Let’s explore these critical thinking skills and their impact on news literacy in more depth.
Evaluating Sources and Evidence
One essential critical thinking skill that supports news literacy is the ability to evaluate sources. In today's world, where anyone can publish information online, it is important to be able to distinguish between credible sources and those that lack credibility. This means understanding the differences between primary and secondary sources, recognizing when a source is biased or unreliable, and evaluating the credentials of the author or publisher.
Being able to evaluate sources and evidence for credibility and accuracy allows students to identify fake news and other harmful media. Research on fake news and critical thinking highlights critical thinking as “an essential skill for identifying fake news.”
Another critical thinking skill that supports news literacy is the ability to analyze information. This involves breaking down complex information into its component parts, evaluating the evidence presented, and considering the implications of the information. For example, if a news article presents statistics about a particular issue, it is important to evaluate the methodology used to collect the data, the sample size, and the relevance of the statistics to the issue at hand.
Identifying and Evaluating Biases
Critical thinking also allows students to identify and evaluate biases. News sources may have biases based on political or social values, financial interests, or personal opinions. It is important to be able to recognize these biases and to evaluate how they may affect the presentation of information. By developing these critical thinking skills, students can become more discerning consumers of news media, and better equipped to make informed decisions based on the information presented.
How Practicing News Literacy Develops Critical Thinking
Becoming more news literate can also help develop critical thinking skills in turn. By engaging with news media and seeking out diverse perspectives on issues, individuals can develop their ability to question assumptions, evaluate evidence, and consider multiple perspectives. This can lead to a more nuanced understanding of complex issues and a greater appreciation for the diverse perspectives that exist in society.
This creates a powerful education win-win. News literacy and critical thinking effectively support each other and allow students to become informed and discerning consumers of media.
How THINKING PRO Helps Students Build News Literacy
Our THINKING PRO system is built around local news media and teaches students media literacy and critical thinking in a meaningful and impactful way. It walks students through a simple but effective process for analyzing news media, involving:
- Differentiating simple statements (answers to who, what, when, and where questions) and complex claims (answers to why and how questions)
- Evaluating evidence supporting each
- Differentiating evidence and opinion in complex claims
- Identify various categories of claims that can be made within an informational text (e.g.: cause and effect, problem and solution, value judgments)
- Evaluate internal logic of informational text by:
- analyzing the consistency of information within the text and with one’s own background knowledge, and
- identifying conflicting information within the text.
- Synthesize information, as well as claims and their supporting evidence, across multiple passages of texts, and integrate it with one’s own understanding
Here at Thinking Habitats, we use thinking tools to empower young people to lead successful lives and contribute to the wellbeing of their communities. Our online platform has helped students improve their critical thinking, reading comprehension, and news media literacy, and has had significant individual and community impacts. Try THINKING PRO today, and join our students who feel more empowered in decision-making, more mindful with their news engagement, and more connected to their local community!
Hobbs, R., Donnelly, K., Friesem, J., & Moen, M. (2013). Learning to engage: How positive attitudes about the news, media literacy, and video production contribute to Adolescent Civic engagement. Educational Media International, 50(4), 231–246. https://doi.org/10.1080/09523987.2013.862364
Machete, P., & Turpin, M. (2020). The use of critical thinking to identify fake news: A systematic literature review. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 235–246. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45002-1_20