Misinformation can spread like a disease on social media. Journalists and news organizations have taken the bait, reporting inaccurate information gathered from social media. We’ve seen this in cases such as the Boston Marathon bombings and Hurricane Sandy, among many other examples.
“What’s the Real Deal?” is an exercise that teaches students to be critical of information on social media platforms. Students learn how to analyze the credibility of user-generated content, social media sources, and news tips from social media. They also become aware of a major challenge facing journalists — balancing the pressure to publish quickly while upholding traditional news values.
Journalists’ use of social media as a tool for newsgathering, dissemination, and connecting with audiences is the new norm. Students and working journalists can get caught up in the excitement of social media’s speed. However, it’s important for budding journalists to understand the strengths and limitations of social media information. In the sea of all the “noise,” traditional journalistic skills, such as verification and accuracy, are more important now than ever. This exercise teaches students to value these skills while harnessing the potential of social media for journalism.
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