September 20, 2020

Alma Matters is a Poynter newsletter designed to provide ideas, news and insight to those in the journalism education community. Subscribe here to get Alma Matters delivered to you.

Happy Sunday! You’re a few weeks into this semester … I hope this resource roundup helps!

Two fun classroom misinfo tools

Clemson’s Media Forensics Hub is offering a new online game, Spot the Troll. It’s a fun interactive that’s definitely assignment-worthy, as it challenges students (you know, the digital natives) on their ability to spot real social media profiles vs. fake ones. Gamers are asked to analyze eight social media feeds and then decide if they are legit or not. You find out if you’re right or wrong immediately, and the answers explain tips for sussing out the fakes.

If you’re looking for teaching material about mal-, mis- and disinformation, Poynter offers a free 10-day text message course with basic fact-checking tools and techniques. Teaching tip: Everyone gets the same course, so enter your cell a day or two before you ask students to do it and you’ll be ahead of them in the “class” and can structure discussion around the information they’ll receive that day. Here’s a screengrab from Day Eight:


Sign up alert!

The lineup and registration is now live for this year’s virtual ACP/CMA conference, the biggest event in college journalism, taking place Oct. 22-24. Early bird rates close Oct. 3. The organization’s Pinnacle Awards finalists have also been announced in a huge array of categories — is your school in?

Are you the betting type?

What are the odds that someone in college media is thinking about getting in on the sports betting action? Is it really that out there to consider? If it’s good enough for ESPN

A historical look

Here’s a new way to infuse history into your classroom discussions about race. The LA Times recently ran a series of text, multimedia and archival material on the Chicano Moratorium. I wasn’t alone in not knowing about this event that started as a peaceful rally and ended with three people dead, including a journalist. (Hello, modern day relevance!). While we all agree that the Times’ paywall is necessary (everyone nod along) to fund its great journalism, educators really wanted access — so the Times produced a zine with a free printable download! Very cool, very interesting and very informative. Five stars, LA Times.

Elites, please read.

Two more diversity pieces to note this week. For Poynter, Omar Rashad wrote How the journalism industry’s elitism locks out folks from underrepresented backgrounds, an alarming and demoralizing account of having an industry exec naysay his community college education. Meanwhile, from AAJA’s Voice student journalism program, came this analysis: How America’s top newsrooms recruit interns from a small circle of colleges.

The best work on the worst thing

Speaking of the LA Times, it has a really gorgeous, devastating look at this year’s fire season. They managed to show the scale of this complex issue with a visual clarity that I found refreshing.

One to show your editorial staff

Here’s how you write an editorial: Dear white people: we’ve read your letters. Great work from the students at the Northwest Missourian.

Student media in the news

Texas Monthly has this lovely piece: On Texas Campuses, Student-Run Newspapers Have Become Crucial Sources of Coronavirus News.

Exalt with me over this paragraph: “The story … is an example of the crucial role student-run newspapers have assumed as universities reopen around the state and country. Front pages once filled with stories about football games and student politics are now dedicated to tracking the latest test results, reporting on breaches of social distancing guidelines, and pressing university administrators for more transparency.”

And NPR’s “Morning Edition” featured student editors from James Madison and UNC in its piece College Newspapers Aim To Keep Schools Transparent During Pandemic.

College headlines

Great journalism to share with your students

Classroom discussion

Here’s the kind of correction you never want to have to run. The Washington Post was forced to run this correction after erroneously reporting that the FBI had raided a home. A followup, A fake FBI raid orchestrated by right-wing activists dupes The Washington Post, has more details on the story, which was posted for about two hours.

For discussion:

  1. Do you think you as a journalist, when presented with images of people in FBI gear raiding a home, would have assumed this was in fact an FBI raid? Why or why not?
  2. How could the Post — and other journalists — have protected themselves against this hoax?
  3. What do you think of the Post’s correction and decision to refer to the amended story? When presented with the knowledge that your publication had been fooled, what would you have done if you were the editor of the Washington Post?

One last thing

I spent this week talking to professors, deans and advisers about their journalism education needs for the next couple of semesters. My role at Poynter is to be a conduit between schools and our offerings, so I take seriously the feedback I get from my friends in education.

One point many of you made is that there are too many newsletters, too little time. So this week I flipped the format of the newsletter to get right to the resources.

I see you, dedicated readers, sticking around for me waxing philosophical at the end! What do you think of that format? And please — if you have insight you want to share with Poynter about your needs for journalism education, please consider booking a 30-minute appointment with me to discuss how Poynter can help you! I’m at

Have a great week teaching our future journalists and educating news consumers.

Barbara Allen is the director of college programming. She can be reached at or on Twitter, @barbara_allen_

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Barbara Allen is the director of college programming for Poynter. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of She spent two decades in…
Barbara Allen

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