Monday, December 5, 2011

“Really?” Curriculum & Contest

Monday, December 05, 2011

“Baby Bacon,” the baby formula that provides jacked-up nutrition levels…the Bed Bug outbreak hitting hotels in major cities…the $100,000 backpacks purchased by the city of Los Angeles for its emergency responders.

All are news stories that were widely disseminated but based on questionable reporting. Their distribution and impact could have been avoided early on, had reporters – or audience members – simply used common sense and asked “Really?”

One safeguard is material provided by the Radio Television Digital News Foundation meant to teach teens to ask common sense questions about news stories. RTDNF has released an innovative set of News Literacy resources for teachers and students. It also is sponsoring a Public Service Announcement contest with a top prize of $1,000 for the winning student and $1,000 for his or her school. The deadline for entry is Dec. 20. RTDNF’s news literacy work targets educators in school (high school, middle school) as well as in nonprofit, after-school settings. We asked Carol Knopes, education director for the RTDNF, to describe what drives the Really? initiative.

Really? is the first question that should come to mind when teens get a text, Tweet, blog, rumor from a friend or a story from the New York Times. Any information at all. Students should certainly ask it before passing along any information. After ‘Really?’, we want teens to ask five other simple questions:
·         Who said it?
·         Can I trust that person? 
·         Is that person biased on this subject? 
·         Am I biased on this subject?
·         Where can I go to get more reliable information to make my decision about this information?

We know that the best way to teach teens important journalistic concepts is through hands-on work.  Our students have to understand the Really? approach to news literacy before they can start writing their scripts and shooting their video PSAs. We’re looking forward to seeing some creative, sometimes serious, sometime funny takes on how to sort through the deluge of texts, Tweets, blogs, gossip, websites, cable news, broadcast news and newspapers.

Knopes hopes that teachers around the country will adopt these lesson plans and participate in the PSA contest. “We know that teachers are very busy this time of year. Teachers can choose the parts of the webinar and the parts of the lesson plan that they want to present. Their students will see TV news stories that would never have been broadcast if someone had just asked ‘Really?’ We think this is the kind of program that students will very quickly understand and put into practice.”

For more information, go to RTDNF’s High School Broadcast Journalism Project’s website, at

--by Mark Hallett, senior program officer 

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