MediaWise: Teaching young people to sort fact from fiction online

MediaWise is a groundbreaking media literacy project that’s teaching millions of young people 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 has expanded to include young voters heading to the polls for the first time in 2020 with the launch of the MediaWise Voter Project.

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. Especially during an election year, this issue has real-world consequences.

MediaWise is teaching teens to be critical media consumers and make decisions based on facts.

(Read our editorial standards here.)

group
Alex_Savannah
MWevent
Hamby_Classroom

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

The Four Pillars of the Project 

  1. Curriculum: Stanford History Education Group released high school and middle school curriculum called Civic Online Reasoning that’s free to use.
  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.

Meet the MediaWise Project Staff:

Katy Byron – Editor and Program Manager

Kristyn Wellesley – Editorial Director

Alex Mahadevan – Senior Multimedia Reporter

Heaven Taylor-Wynn – Multimedia Reporter

Alexa Volland– Multimedia Reporter

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.

With additional funding from Facebook, Poynter expanded MediaWise in 2020 to create the MediaWise Voter Project (#MVP). The program’s goal is to reach 2 million U.S. college students, teaching them to be prepared and better informed when they head to the polls for the first time in the 2020 election.