“Fact. Wow!” Making sense of the news

I don't use news sources any longer.png

On Monday morning, I engaged in one of those meaningless Facebook conversations with someone who had no interest in what I had to offer. She began by asserting as “fact” something that was total fantasy and ended by telling me “I don’t use ‘news’ sources any longer.” Unfortunately, she’s not alone – many people say they don’t trust or don’t follow the news. If you’re tempted to throw up your hands and give up on “the media,” let me begin by telling you that there is no such thing as “the media.” All kinds and stripes and shades of media compete to define and deliver “the news.” As news consumers, we must use tools of media literacy to figure out who and when and how much to believe, rather than just giving up.  

I’ve been working on media literacy and teaching media literacy and preaching media literacy for years, so it might seem strange that I’m taking an online course called Making Sense of the News: News Literacy Lessons for Digital Citizens. It’s a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), offered by the University of Hong Kong and the State University of New York, offered in six weekly sessions:

Week 1: The power of information is now in the hands of consumers.

Week 2: What makes journalism different from other types of information?

Week 3: Where can we find trustworthy information?

Week 4: How to tell what’s fair and what’s biased.

Week 5: How to apply news literacy concepts in real life.

Week 6: Meeting the challenges of digital citizenship.

Since I often talk or teach about news literacy, I wanted to see if I missed anything, and if there are better ways of presenting the information. I recommend this course – you can take it without paying anything, and it’s well-organized and informative. Here are a few tidbits from the first four weeks of the course – some to inform, some to amuse, some to explore further.


From Week 2: What makes journalism different?

“Here is our definition of journalism:

“Timely information of some public interest that is shared and subject to a journalistic process of verification, and for which an independent individual or organization is directly accountable.

“We define verification as the process that establishes or confirms the accuracy or truth of something.

“We define independence as freedom from the control, influence or support, of interested parties, coupled with a conscious effort to set aside any pre-existing beliefs and buttressed by a system of checks and balances that helps ensure journalistic impartiality.

“We define accountability as taking responsibility for one’s work, acknowledging and correcting errors. Journalists take credit for their work so that news consumers know whom to contact with tips or complaints.”

That’s pretty important: verifiable information, independently reported, by journalists and organizations that are accountable – that take responsibility for what they do.

And here’s a discussion question for you: Does this blog measure up to the definition of journalism? Why or why not?


Okay – I promised you something to amuse, and here it is: a painfully funny one-minute video that shows how news gets distorted, especially (but not exclusively) as it travels across the internet.


Explore further:


Filed under media, news, Uncategorized

2 responses to ““Fact. Wow!” Making sense of the news

  1. Joline Gitis

    Good work, Mary. Well done!


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