The Virginian-Pilot uses MediaWise content at its summer journalism school for students

Erica Smith, online editor and director of digital strategy at The Virginian-Pilot, teamed with Pilot senior editor Jeff Reece in late July to provide high school- and college-age students the opportunity to experience the MediaWise fact-checking project in Norfolk, Va.

Here’s Smith’s recap of the experience: “After a brief introduction (brief!), Jeff handed out three worksheets from Stanford History Education Group. The students worked on their own to fill them out and make some judgment calls, then Jeff walked through each worksheet with them, discussing the finer points. He explained what ‘fake news’ is, as well as satire and sponsored content, and shared PolitiFact’s ‘spot fake news’ tip sheet. 

“For the second half, the class went through a Globe and Mail quiz on fake news as a group: This one’s interesting because it includes satire, and it includes a hoax that a legit news outlet fell for. (Ouch.) The class ended by discussing trust and how news organizations like ours work to earn our readers’ trust, and a general Q&A — starting with these issues, but opened up to anything. This included some interesting and related subjects, like when and why we use anonymous sources, and whether accepting sponsored content threatens our credibility as a news organization,” she said.

Seventeen high school students and eight college students attended the weeklong journalism camp, which has been an annual event sponsored and hosted by The Virginian-Pilot.

“Unexpected to us, the high school students seemed more on top of fake news, sponsored content and such than the college students,” Smith said.