Lesson Plan: Media Literacy and Fake News

Orson Welles's War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News

A. Brad Schwartz talked about the reaction to the 1938 Orson Welle's radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. The broadcast had six million listeners, one million of which said they believed it was real. He argues that while the myth of the broadcast creating a widespread panic is still conventional wisdom, the real concern of listeners at the time was over the power of radio in society.

Description

In a world filled with rapid pace communication through a variety of platforms, we have an abundance of information available at our fingertips. Discerning fact from fiction can be complex. Knowing the source can be challenging, and the messages being delivered can be received in different ways, effecting certain populations of people as well as our country. View the videos in this lesson with your students to cultivate an understanding of media literacy and engage in a discussion about its impact and significance for the future.

Procedures

  • STEP 1.

    Assign background reading from textbook or other appropriate source on Orson Welles and the "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast.

    As a class, view this video below to provide additional context. Discuss parallels between the time period of 1938 and present day.

    VIDEO CLIP: Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles' War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News (4:00)

    Brad Schwartz talked about the reaction to the 1938 Orson Welle's radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. The broadcast had six million listeners, one million of which said they believed it was real. He argues that while the myth of the broadcast creating a widespread panic is still conventional wisdom, the real concern of listeners at the time was over the power of radio in society.

  • STEP 2.

    Students may work independently or in groups to view the videos below and complete the chart on the handout.

  • VIDEO CLIP: Fake News Sites and Effects on Democracy (4:44)

    New York Magazine's Max Read discusses his piece examining the rise of “fake news” and whether the internet is a reliable tool for furthering democracy.

  • VIDEO CLIP: Clinton Watts on Fake News (8:45)

    Clint Watts talked about reports that a Russian propaganda effort is to blame for the prevalence of “fake” news during the 2016 election cycle.

  • VIDEO CLIP: Role of Media and Fake News (4:16)

    White House Communications Director Jen Psaki and Washington Post editor and columnist Ruth Marcus talk about the role of news and social media and the rise of fake new stories.

  • VIDEO CLIP: Satire vs Fake News (1:35)

    Cole Bolton and Chad Nackers talked about their satirical publication, The Onion, and the intent of political satire versus misinformation.

  • STEP 3.

    As a class, discuss how students can identify fake news and how it can possibly affect the public as well as our country.

    Have students search for examples of fake news and share them with the class. This can be done through presentations or shared through a group on a social media platform.

Additional Resource

Vocabulary

  • Fake News
  • Media
  • Media Literacy
  • Propaganda
  • Satire
  • Social Media
  • The Onion
  • War Of The Worlds

Topics

Media

Grades

Middle SchoolHigh School