Terms Media-Literate Students Should Know

This glossary of news literacy terms can help students learn how to discern fact from fiction, recognize reliable news sources, and navigate the information landscape.

Topics: Literacy, Curriculum and Instruction

When it comes to teaching media literacy, there is no such thing as too early or too often. It’s fundamental to ensuring that students leave school able to discern fact from fiction, recognize reliable news sources, and navigate the information landscape with confidence.

Media literacy education prepares young people to thrive in a rapidly evolving and complex world, equipping them with critical thinking skills that apply to all aspects of modern life. It gives them the skills and knowledge they need to spot falsehoods, seek credible information, and share that knowledge with others.

It offers concrete, nonideological learning standards for a variety of subjects, and it seeks to teach children how to think about news and information, not what to think about specific sources. It’s foundational to their ability to learn and grow as students and citizens.

Glossary of Terms

Understanding children what media literacy means is key. News Literacy Project’s Checkology virtual classroom offers a glossary of terms that media-​literate students should know. Here are a few of the most foundational:

Advertising. Information that sells a product or service.

Bias. Prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

Context. The set of facts or circumstances that surround a situation, event, or fact. In journalistic terms, context is often a key part of providing a truthful account of an event or understanding the meaning of an event over time. A lack of context or a deceitful misrepresentation of context is a common feature of misinformation.

Disinformation. Misinformation that is deliberately created to be false, usually to achieve a desired ideological or political result.

Fact. A statement that can be verified or shown to be true. Facts are the basis for credible news reports.

Fairness. In journalism, a standard that calls for journalists to approach their reporting in an honest, accurate way—without allowing their own biases to interfere. This includes considering and reporting on all relevant sides of a subject without giving anything more weight or attention than the facts warrant. It also includes making sure all parties directly involved in or most affected by the topic being covered have had the opportunity to tell their side.

Framing. The way that journalists approach and organize a story. Various types of news media bias can be expressed in how a story is framed.

Impartiality. In journalism, the effort to avoid bias by being as fair and accurate as possible in reporting.

Misinformation. Information that is misleading, erroneous, or false. While misinformation is sometimes created and shared intentionally, it is often created unintentionally or as humor (for example, satire) and later mistaken as a serious claim by others.

Objectivity. Methods, guidelines, and practices that are designed to remove the influence of personal biases and blind spots to the greatest extent possible. The aspiration to eliminate bias is an important ideal in both journalism and science. However, professed objectivity in journalism has often been implemented in ways that are subjective and unfair.

Opinion. Information intended to persuade the consumer—ideally through the use of fact-based evidence—to adopt a specific point of view or perspective about an issue or event.

Propaganda. Information that provokes, often through the use of false or distorted information to manipulate emotions.

Sourcing. All of the people, organizations, documents, and other providers of information used to produce a news report. The use of incomplete or otherwise flawed sourcing is a tipoff to news media bias.

Transparency. Openness and accountability. In journalism, science, or data collection, transparency means explaining everything possible about the source of the information, including the methods used to access, gather, or analyze it. Transparency is a sign of credibility because it allows others to double-check or replicate the information.

To learn more about media literacy education, check out the Principal magazine article “Knowing Fact From Fiction,” which identifies practical tips to keep in mind when incorporating news literacy into curriculum.

Charles Salter is president and CEO of the News Literacy Project and a former teacher, school leader, and teachers union president.