Bogus crowd photos at ‘Million MAGA March’ and other news literacy lessons

The material comes from the project’s newsletter, the Sift, which takes the most recent viral rumors, conspiracy theories, hoaxes and journalistic ethics issues and turns them into timely lessons with discussion prompts and links. The Sift, which is published weekly during the school year, has more than 10,000 subscribers, most of them educators.

The News Literacy Project also offers a program called Checkology, a browser-based platform designed for students in grades 6 through 12 that helps prepare the next generation to easily identify misinformation. Checkology is available free to educators, students, school districts and parents. Since 2016, more than 29,000 educators and parents in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., have registered to use the platform. Since August 2020, more than 1,000 educators and parents and over 34,000 students have actively used Checkology.

You can learn more about the News Literacy Project and all of the educational resources it provides in this piece, but here is a rundown:

Founded more than a decade ago by Alan Miller, a former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the Los Angeles Times, the News Literacy Project is the leading provider of news literacy education.

It creates digital curriculums and other resources and works with educators and journalists to teach middle and high school students how to recognize news and information to trust — and it provides them with the tools they need to be informed and engaged participants in a democracy. It uses the standards of high-quality journalism as an aspirational yardstick against which to measure all news and information. Just as important, it provides the next generation with an appreciation of the First Amendment and the role of a free press.

Here’s material from the Nov. 16 Sift:

YES: The two photos at the top of this Facebook post are authentic aerial shots of the MAGA March in support of President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14.

YES: They are aerial shots of the crowd at the Cleveland Cavaliers championship parade in 2016.

★ Featured rumor resource: Teach your students how to vet crowd photo rumors on their own by playing “Context Catcher” with these classroom-ready slides.

Note: Photos of large crowds commonly circulate out of context to exaggerate support for political causes and candidates.

Also note: Using photos of the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers championship parade has been a joke trolling meme since 2017.

NO: This photo was not taken at the “Million MAGA March” in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14.


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Nov. 11 promoted an editorial across the top of its front page about two Republican senators who criticized “Georgia’s election system” but “offered no specifics.”

The placement choice above the news organization’s name is atypical — and attracted attention. The placement also raises questions about how prominently opinion pieces should be featured. Let’s take a closer look as we consider the differences between news and opinion as well as the role of an editorial board at a standards-based news organization. Time to grab your news goggles!

★ Featured News Goggles resources: These classroom-ready slides offer annotations, discussion questions and a teaching idea related to this week’s topic. Here are some of them, narrated by two former reporters who work at the News Literacy Project, one identified as “S” and the other “H”, for Suzannah and Hannah.

Note: An editorial board is traditionally a team that includes veteran journalists in the opinion department of a news organization. This department is separate and independent from the news department. The board is seen as the voice of the publication’s opinions, but its purpose is not to represent the views of newsroom staffers. Through articles known as editorials, this team shares opinions on major issues of public importance.

Discuss: What do you think of the front-page promotion of the editorial? Is the fact that it’s on the front page confusing? Are the opinions of editorial boards particularly valuable? Do they play an important role in shaping public discussion and debate in democracy? Why or why not?

Idea: Direct students to find a piece written by the editorial board of a local news organization. Then ask them: Where did you find it? How was it labeled? Could it have been labeled more clearly? Did the editorial support its argument with evidence?

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