WAUWATOSA, Wis. — It’s National News Literacy Week and we want to help you figure out what’s credible information and what’s misinformation.
High school students in Wauwatosa are learning those skills running their newspaper “The Compass.”
Every week those students meet to pitch stories, edit copy, and plan future coverage.
“I did it on a whim and now it’s something I think I’m going to pursue as a career,” says junior Annabelle Wooster.
Wooster is on The Compass’ leadership team and serves as an editor. She says part of the reason her interest in journalism has grown is because of the serious topics her team is covering – things like the pandemic, and how the school district is handling safety protocols.
“I think I’m just grateful that I’m still young and can use everything that’s been going on to then later help me create more factual news,” Wooster says.
Chris Lazarski is the journalism teacher at Wauwatosa West. He’s grateful his students are learning during this time, too – when there’s an abundance of information right at our fingertips.
“What we need to teach students now is kind of how to weed through that information and sort the information and evaluate the information, and determine what information is valuable and what information is not,” Lazarski says.
He says learning how to produce the news is a great way to do that. Students have been learning a lot about reporting and how it might be biased.
“Is it a source that produces a lot of opinion stuff, a source that you can see patterns within their work?” Wooster says. “Are they skewed one way politically, is it obvious in that sense?”
“It’s so easy to just slightly change something and entirely change the narrative of the whole story you’re telling,” adds Evelyn Skyburg Greer, a sophomore who manages most of The Compass’ visuals and graphics.
Lazarski says the skills his students need to produce the news – asking questions, listening, synthesizing information – are similar to the skills they need to read the news.
“So they have sharper antennas when they are consuming that information.”
The students who run The Compass say it’s not just young people who need these lessons. Adults could use a refresher on how to identify misinformation, too.
“I think it’s really detrimental to our society and how people are working together to change things that may be unjust or unequal in our system,” Sykburg Greer says.
Lazarski adds that these types of literacy skills aren’t just useful for reading or watching the news. We’re bombarded by information every day, via social media, streaming services and more. Knowing how to spot misinformation is crucial these days.