Facing Ferguson: A News Literacy Case Study

Monday 1:30-2:30 Commonwealth Museum Conference Room

Presenter: Taymullah Abdur-Rahman, Program Associate, Facing History and Ourselves

Keywords: civics, news literacy, bias, race, current events, journalism, social media

On the afternoon of August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot to death in a confrontation with Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. Within a week, the shooting became a flashpoint for a discussion about race, policing, and justice in the United States. Polling in the aftermath of the shooting and during the protests that followed revealed a starkly polarized understanding of the events and their significance.

How can people have such different views of the same events? How is social media changing the news and information landscape? What does it mean for a society when citizens can create and share news and information about breaking news events, often before news media? How can journalists and citizens alike determine the credibility of the news and information they encounter? What function should the press play in a democracy?

This session introduces participants to a new unit designed to help students become effective and informed civic participants in a digital age. Using the news and social media coverage of the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., as a case study, teachers will be prepared to explore the ways that our identities influence our perspectives, understand how confirmation and other implicit biases can steer our attention and shape our understanding of the world, explore the many choices journalists make and the impact of those choices, and learn how to use news literacy skills and concepts as a set of critical thinking tools to evaluate the credibility of information and make informed decisions.

Audience: Secondary Level-High School

Topic: Civics & Government