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30-60 minutes
  • Current Events
  • Journalism
  • 7-12
  • College/University

  1. Discuss what your students have heard about fairness or bias — in the media, and reach a definition of what fairness is. (For example: Fairness is providing all the information that an audience needs to understand and evaluate an event or idea. It means giving serious consideration to all sides of an issue and sharing all the important facts.)
  2. To illustrate what fairness in news coverage might look like and why it matters, distribute the Reporting the Story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears handout. Discuss which of the headlines your students think are fair, which are not, and why. Discuss how the different versions might influence their view of the events.
  3. Explain that one way to weigh the fairness of a news story is to look for three things: word choice, context and counterpoints. To understand these concepts, watch the “Is It Fair?” explainer video, then review the accompanying tipsheet graphic.
  4. Look back at the Goldilocks examples and highlight these things:
    • Yellow = examples of leading language
    • Orange = examples of context that deepens understanding of what happened
    • Green = examples of counterpoints showing different perspectives or responses to accusations

          Discuss students’ findings as they go to ensure understanding of each concept.  

  1. Tell students it’s time to go beyond fairy tales and apply their fairness meters to real news. Distribute the Is It Fair? worksheet and printed examples of a news story from the News or Noise? media map or your own selections. Suggested examples:
    • Black Teens Ambivalent About Walkouts, 2018 (1 and 2 of 2)
    • Children's Crusade Begins, 1963 (1 and 2 of 2)

          Depending on your students’ level and confidence, either work through the worksheet as a class or have them work independently or in small groups.

  1. After students have completed their worksheets, have them share their findings and discuss their process. Then use the Discussion Questions below to continue the conversation.

  • Which of these three indicators of fairness do you think is the easiest to look for? The most difficult? Why?
  • Why is it important to weigh the fairness of the content you come across in your daily life? Is this something you already do?
  • How can you tell the difference between colorful language that helps paint a vivid scene and unfair language that shapes a reader/viewer’s opinion of the story?
  • What would you tell someone who says it’s too much work to try to weigh whether or not news is fair?
  • What would you say to someone who says all media is biased?
  • If a news story is biased, does that mean you should discount all of the information in it? Why or why not? What next steps should you take if you determine something is unfair?

Evaluating Coverage of Current Controversies

As a class, create a list of current controversial topics. Individually or in small groups, students select an event and compare/contrast coverage of it from at least three sources (online media outlets, print newspapers, cable TV shows, etc.). Reports chosen should be from the same day, if possible. Highlight examples of word choice, context and counterpoints. Discuss their findings as a class.


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