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The Making of Fake News: A Case Study

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An NPR investigation into a fake news creator forms the basis for an exploration of the motivations and methods behind fake news stories.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle and high school

TIME: 30-60 minutes

MATERIALS: Access to the NPR story We Tracked Down a Fake-News Creator in the Suburbs. Here’s What We Learned (, audio and/or written transcript); copies of The Making of Fake News: A Case Study worksheet (download)

Note: The interview excerpts following the news story include content that may not be acceptable for some students, and you may wish to print the news story only.


  1. Read or listen to the NPR story in its entirety. Decide how much of the interview you will make available to your students.
  2. Make copies of The Making of Fake News worksheet, one per student.

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Overview PDF DOC
Worksheets PDF DOC
Extensions PDF DOC
Full Packet PDF DOC

To request a large print or Braille version, call 202.292.6650.


  1. Ask your students what they’ve heard about fake news. Discuss their responses and create a class definition of “fake news.” Be sure to differentiate between the true definition of fake news — stories that are completely fabricated/fictional — and the other ways in which the term is being used, such as to describe news that you disagree with, news that is biased, or news that is flawed. Explain that you will be focusing on fake news meaning false news.
  2. Ask your students why they think individuals create fake news stories and discuss their answers. Tell them they will learn more about possible motivations by reading/listening to an investigation conducted by NPR, where the reporters used some detective work to track down one of the anonymous creators of these stories.
  3. Have your students read or listen to the NPR story individually or in small groups and complete the accompanying worksheet.
  4. Discuss their responses and the questions below.
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  1. Which do you think is more work: creating fake news or reporting real news? Explain.
  2. Do you think Jestin Coler is being honest about why he creates fake news? Explain.
  3. What are the dangers of fake news?
  4. Do you think fake news is a problem? Why or why not? And if so, what can we do to address this problem?
  5. Do you think Coler is right that fake news is going to continue to grow? Why or why not?
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