Engaging Students in Critical Media Literacy—in the Classroom and Beyond

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

By Andy Lee Roth

In the past five years, more than 1,300 students from dozens of college and university campuses in the United States and Canada have flexed their media literacy “muscles” by researching and publicizing important but underreported news stories through Project Censored’s Campus Affiliates Program. 

Critical thinking and media literacy are essential skill sets for students in the 21st century, as supporters of Project Censored no doubt appreciate. Through the Project’s Campus Affiliates Program, college and university professors across North America provide their students with direct, hands-on opportunities to develop their critical thinking skills and media literacy by researching what we call Validated Independent News stories. 

By identifying, vetting, and summarizing high-quality independent reporting on newsworthy topics that corporate media have marginalized or entirely ignored, students sharpen their critical thinking skills (including interpretation, evaluation, and explanation) and enhance their media literacy. Doing so, they also contribute to a larger, electronically-networked effort—extending beyond their classrooms and campuses—to raise public awareness about the limits of corporate news coverage and to cultivate public appreciation for the importance of independent investigative journalism.

Each year, the Project publishes candidate stories accepted as Validated Independent News stories on our website. Subsequently these stories are considered for inclusion among the Top 25 most important but underreported stories, as featured in the Project’s annual book and archived online. Both online and in the book, we acknowledge the students and faculty who contribute VINs by name. 

The Top 25 stories of 2017-2018, as featured in the Project’s forthcoming yearbook, Censored 2019: Fighting the Fake News Invasion, draw on the collective efforts of 351 students from thirteen college and university campuses, who reviewed over 300 independent news stories since March 2017. 

Over the five-year period reported here, an average of 290 students per year have participated in the Campus Affiliates Program. For a significant number of these students, their efforts result in both enhanced media literacy and a publication with their name on it. 

With students in my sociology courses, I have seen how that recognition galvanizes student engagement in activism outside the classroom, and helps to open doors for them when they apply for scholarships or to transfer  to a four-year college.

Faculty and students involved in the program evidently recognize it as one meaningful response to the scourge of “fake news.” In the past five years, participation in the Project’s Campus Affiliates Program has increased by 35 percent, from 260 students in 2013-2014 to 351 in 2017-2018. 

Those interested in learning more about the program—including teachers and students—can find information on Project Censored’s website and in the Global Critial Media Literacy Educators’ Resource Guide, which the Project produced in collaboration with the Action Coalition For Media Education and the faculty of Sacred Heart University’s Media Literacy and Digital Culture graduate program. We welcome your involvement and appreciate your support!

Andy Lee Roth is associate director of Project Censored, where he coordinates the Project’s Campus Affiliates Program.