Proposed Web Publication and Updated 21st century Fit "Current Events" Pilot for Undergraduate and Honors High School Students
Remember the early days of "current events" in classrooms? The teacher would have us read and discuss daily news stories in the newspaper. The basic educational concept was that with students becoming aware of the news around them as passive consumers, they would somehow become informed and better citizens.
Old-time "current events" were fine for the days of "Ozzie and Harriet"; but what about today’s age of reality television? Now the average person experiences him or herself as more than a passive consumer. There is an increasing expectation that citizens of all ranks are entitled to be heard in the mass media. They are actively asserting their voices on the Internet.
ASRL has come up with an updated concept of "current events" for students that suits the new Internet age as well as the need for inclusion, openness and dialogue between the media and its consumers.
Instead of merely reading the news passively, students would actively contrast and compare different media reports on a single event, whether local, regional or national. As we know from consistent experience, the facts inevitably will be varied among the reports. The students' task will be to determine the truth by assembling the correct facts through fact checking and research. The students will then inform the media outlet of any errors, ask for corrections, and finally write up the case study and publish the entire process (including documents and e-mail exchanges with editors) on CheckYourFacts.org’s site, "community blog."
To publish a case, students simply register and get a password for access to making entries on the "open blog" site. Technical assistance such as uploading images would be provided by ASRL staff.
The "Check Your Facts" website would contain a teacher's curriculum guide and "how to do research" tips for students. These materials would be developed with help from Stanford and University of Washington at Seattle faculty. (On staff we have a PHD student from Columbia University’s School of Education).
Each published case will have a number. Registration will include media outlet name, article/program name, author's name and date. CheckYourFacts.org site will track, update and post statistical results of students' entered cases, consisting of numbers of cases per media outlet; journalist, producers or editors and programs or articles.
ASRL has done initial trial runs of what will become the CheckYourFacts.org pilot program. Comments from our interns indicate that these fact-checking projects support:
1) learning how to do in-depth research
2) critical thinking and healthy skepticism of authoritative information
3) empowerment for any citizen to keep the media accountable
If we had armies of students doing this kind of work, the public’s present belief--that the media lacks transparency and accountability--would be changed. If the CheckYourFacts.org program were run nationwide, one can envision the creation of a society of sophisticated media consumers, and a journalism culture of more uniformly accurate reportage following suit.
2. WeighingFACTS.org (Website + Proposed Meeting, March 2005)
"Weighing Facts in Science, Law, and Journalism:
Arabic- and English-Speaking Perspectives and Disciplines Compared" is
a proposed conference that will focus on the verification process in science,
law, and journalism. In science, we trust scientific facts because they
are repeatable and thus proven to be reliable. However, in journalism,
"facts" are taken as irrefutable statements without any objective or standard
verification process; we simply trust the media to be accountable in their
reportage. This conference, sponsored by Egyptian based Alexandria Library's outreach program,
Pharos Lighthouse Project, and the ASRL of New York, will
bring together scholars, faculty, and graduate students from the fields
of science, law, and journalism to examine case studies that will spur
discussion about and proposed solutions for how the methods and standards
of verification in journalism can be brought up to the rigorous standards
of those used in science and law.
3. RRS Trilogy/Triptych Artwork (3 websites)
Rhonda Roland Shearer, artist and ASRL Director,
conceived the following three websites as an artwork and interactive medium
for exchanging perspectives regarding journalism and its ethics. The three
websites are addressed to the three audiences that embody journalism itself: