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Ministry of Education.

Thinking Critically About News Stories

News stories do not always tell the whole truth. Sometimes what you read in a newspaper tells only a part of the truth or is a distortion of the truth. This happens for the following reasons:

  • Omission - due to the need for brevity and also the deadlines reporters have to meet, sometimes important facts or points of view are omitted from news stories. 

  • Complexity - this is linked to omission. Many important issues are too complex to be written about in a short space and hence they are sometimes treated superficially. This can also occur when the issues are beyond the understanding of a perhaps inexperienced reporter. 

  • Slanting/bias - sometimes a newspaper accidentally or deliberately slants a story by reporting only one side of it, by omitting other view points, through the selection of quotes used or in the use of language with positive or negative connotations. As a class, you might like to discuss some of the reasons why a newspaper would deliberately report in a slanted way. 

  • Sensationalism -in order to sell newspapers, sometimes stories are made more emotive or sensational than they deserve. 

  • Inaccuracy - sometimes reporters make mistakes - they don't listen properly or don't observe or read carefully and hence get the facts wrong. 

  • Mixing of fact and opinion.


  1. Arrange for an argument to begin at the beginning of the period (just as students are settling down) which escalates into a shouting match. One-way of doing this is to arrange for a confident senior (drama?) student to come in and quietly start challenging a grade s/he received from the teacher. The challenge becomes more strident until there is a full-scale shouting match between the teacher or student which should be sustained until it has the compete attention of the class. This may end with the teacher warning the student of the consequences if they don't leave immediately and the student storming out. 

  2. Get students to then write a news story (including headline) of about 100 words which reports the above altercation. 

  3. Divide the class into five groups each with the task of listening for:
    • omissions
    • sensationalism
    • slanting/bias
    • complexity (lack of understanding)
    • inaccuracies
    • mixing fact and opinion.
      in the stories of others. 

  4. Ask for 'volunteers' to read out their reports and at the end of each reading, get each group to report briefly, examples of the feature they were listening for. Ask them where possible to explain why they think their feature occurred in this particular case. 

  5. For the investigation of newspaper treatment of events see Combing Through the News from the New York Times lesson archive. Students use the Sean 'Puffy' Combs trial to compare how and why various media cover a news story differently.

Published on: 18 Dec 2010