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When the News Media Make Mistakes

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Freedom of press doesn’t promise perfection. By exploring corrections, students learn why the news media make mistakes and what happens.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle and high school

TIME: 30-60 minutes

MATERIALS: When the News Media Make Mistakes worksheet (download); Accuracy Checklist worksheet (download); newspapers, magazines or internet access

PREPARE: Make copies of the When the News Media Make Mistakes and Accuracy Checklist worksheets, 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, do you think journalists ever make mistakes? Discuss why this might happen.
  2. Ask your students if they are familiar with the First Amendment? Discuss how it allows news media to publish mistakes.
    • Explain that the freedom of press is central to the lesson. Ask them what the freedom of the press means.
    • Debate whether or not the freedom of the press requires the press to be accurate. (No.)
  3. Pass out When the News Media Make Mistakes worksheet and give students access to news media or the Internet. Students can work individually or in small groups.
  4. Tell students to look for three examples of media corrections and then answer the questions for each example on the worksheet.
  5. Discuss how the corrections were presented? Were they easy to locate?
  6. Pass out the Accuracy Checklist. Tell them they can use this checklist when doing their own research or assignments. Do your students think reporters/editors should use a checklist to reduce errors? Are there other things they would add to the checklist? How can mistakes still happen?
    • Use the checklist to determine if it could have stopped the mistakes students found. (For example, if a story had the wrong state for a city, could the reporter have checked a map?)
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  • Do you think most errors are publicly corrected? Why or why not?
  • What problems could occur if a news organization frequently publishes mistakes?
  • Discuss with the class how they would publish corrections if they were an editor.
    • What will they look like?
    • Where/when will they be published?
    • Will mistakes be treated equally?
    • Will you give the name of the reporter/editor who made the mistake?
    • Will you repeat the misinformation with the corrected information?
    • Will you notify people directly affected by the error?
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