MediaWise: Teaching teens to sort fact from fiction online

MediaWise is a groundbreaking digital media literacy project that’s teaching millions of teens nationwide. 

When the project was first imagined, it aimed to teach 1 million American teenagers how to tell fact from fiction online with half coming from underserved or low-income communities. Today, the work of MediaWise has been seen on social media by 5 million viewers and counting!

Misinformation is everywhere. More than half of Americans admit to sharing made-up news online. Most of them didn’t know it was fake when they shared it.

While digitally savvy teens have grown up on the internet, research from our partners at Stanford History Education Group shows that the vast majority of teenagers have trouble navigating digital information — from viral hoaxes on Instagram to sponsored content on news sites.

MediaWise is teaching teens to be critical media consumers.

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Clockwise from top left: Senior MediaWise reporter Alex Mahadevan teaches at Kearney High School, Kearney, NE. Mahadevan and Savannah Sellers, Host of NBC Stay Tuned and NBC News correspondent, and MediaWise Ambassador, teach a workshop at Savannah’s high school in San Diego. Middle school boys in St. Petersburg, Florida play the “Florida Man Challenge” during a workshop at Poynter. Peter Hamby, Head of News and Host of Good Luck America at Snapchat and MediaWise Ambassador, helps lead a workshop for teens in Iowa before the Democratic caucuses.

The 4 Pillars of the Project 

  1. Curriculum: Stanford History Education Group is releasing free high school and middle school curriculum in November 2019 called Civic Online Reasoning.  
  2. In-person teaching: MediaWise team members host in-person events at schools nationwide: 65+ trainings so far teaching more than 15,000 students.
  3. Teen Fact-Checking Network: Dozens of teens work with us virtually from across America to fact-check content online as members of the MediaWise Teen Fact-Checking Network (TFCN).
  4. Ambassadors: Our MediaWise Ambassadors — prominent journalists and social media influencers —  are helping us spread the word. 

MediaWise Ambassadors Program

MediaWise Ambassadors

Some of the biggest champions for our cause are our MediaWise Ambassadors. They work with us in a variety of ways to spread the MediaWise message. For example, best-selling author John Green — author of “The Fault in Our Stars” — hosted a 10-part video series called Navigating Digital Information on the CrashCourse YouTube channel. The series has more than 1 million views and provides a preview of the Stanford curriculum.

Founding ambassador Lester Holt, anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” worked with the MediaWise team to teach hundreds of students digital literacy skills like lateral reading and reverse image search at a training event at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. Holt also featured MediaWise on “NBC Nightly News” after the event.

Feb. 13, 2019: “NBC News” and “Dateline NBC” anchor Lester Holt and MediaWise hold a joint event at Washington D.C.’s Woodrow Wilson High School to teach students about digital literacy.

How can you get involved?

For everyone:

Follow us on social media! Instagram. Twitter. Facebook. YouTube. TikTok.  Send us claims to fact-check. Use the hashtag #IsThisLegit to flag us on claims you want helping checking out online. Feel free to message us directly, too  — @MediaWise across social.

For teens:

Join the Teen Fact-Checking Network! Visit the MediaWise Twitter or Instagram to find out whether applications are open. You’ll learn how to create original fact-checking videos for Instagram and help us teach MediaWise tips along the way. If you’re in middle school or high school in the United States, contact the team at mwtips@poynter.org.

For educators:

Want to bring MediaWise to your school for a training event? Email us with your specific request at mwtips@poynter.org to get connected.

For journalists:

Interested in covering MediaWise? Email us at mwtips@poynter.org.

Support MediaWise

Will you help us spread facts, not fakes?


MediaWise is led by The Poynter Institute in partnership with Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), Local Media Association (LMA) and the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE). Initial funding was provided by Google.org as part of the Google News Initiative.