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Sandy and media literacy

. . . one of the things that’s now becoming clear is the major role that social media played during and after the storm. Sites like Twitter and Facebook were, for some, incredibly useful tools. They were ways to keep up with friends and relatives and neighbors in a stressful time, but they were also vehicles for spreading false information and, sometimes this was done deliberately.

NPR, hosted by Michel Martin, Why Some Spread Misinformation in Disasters

On my way back from Dunkin’ Donuts this morning, this story played in my car.  My grad student, Maureen Schlosser, also shared a few resources over our class Forum this morning–we’re discussing credibility.

We can approach this storm, and other major news stories, in terms of the media and information literacy opportunities they present.

In my mind, truth is usually negotiated. Text is seldom neutral. And ever since I studied the work of Civil War photographers Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner, I’ve understood that photography usually involves the point of view of the person behind the lens.

It now also involves the point of view and motives and ethics of the person behind the image editor.

Social or citizen journalism is both exciting and complicated.

The tweets and images posted, emerging from the official and unofficial coverage of this past hurricane, as well as their levels of acceptance, present opportunities for serious discussion about credibility and ethics.

Here’s a playlist of new and old content for beginning classroom and library conversations:

Some advice relating to credibility:

And historically:

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is the teacher-librarian at Springfield Township High School, a technology writer, and a blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Courtney K says:

    Living in the Northeast, I had students write a paragraph using their five senses to describe Hurricane Sandy. I then asked them to read a news article on the Tsunami in Japan and write a paragraph using their five senses for this as well. The next day, I started a unit on Primary and Secondary sources, using their writing as the starting examples, and they seemed to grasp the difference immediately!

  2. Sara Kelly Johns says:

    Joyce, I understand the fury from the other side. Ryan’s photograph (watermarked and copyrighted) of the NYC storm on July 26th was stripped of its watermark and circulated as being one from the storm. As a professional photographer, he was hurt and furious. As his mother, I was the latter! It was caught by several of his friends who tried to track down the person who started it on its unauthorized journey. Sigh.

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