Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Fake News? Media Literacy!: Concepts & Key Words

Glossary: The Language of Media Literacy

News literacy

Media Literacy - Project Look Sharp


  • Learning how to use media wisely and effectively
  • Engaging in critical thinking when evaluating media messagers
  • Being able to evaluate the credibility of information from different sources
  • Recognizing media's influence on beliefs, attitudes, values, behavors, and the democratic process
  • Encouraging participatoy citizenship
  • Achieving greater understanding and appreciating multiple perspectives
  • Learning to produce communication and express oneself using different forms of media

Project Look Sharp, Ithaca College

Concepts and Keywords


The word "post-truth" is defined by the Oxford Dictionaries as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."

Source:  "Word of the Year 2016" by Oxford Dictionaries. Standard YouTube License, 2016.

Thank you, Tacoma Community College, for this mini-guide which was adapted for our use!

Fake News  (also known as  hoax news)

Fake news websites and other media outlets deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and dis-information claiming it to be real news — often using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect. Unlike news satire, fake news websites seek to mislead, rather than entertain, readers for financial, political, or other reasons. 

Source:  "4 Ways to Spot a Fake News Story" by HowStuffWorks, Jan. 2016, Standard YouTube License.

News satire:

News satire, also called "satirical news," is a type of parody presented in a format typical of mainstream journalism, and called satire because of its content.

The difference between "fake news" and "news satire":

  • News satire is meant to be read as satire or "fake"; the creator(s) is using humor to play off real themes or issues.
  • Fake news, however, is trying to seem or look real when, in actuality, it isn't.

Well-known news satire sites:


As defined by the Urban Dictionary, clickbait is "An eyecatching link on a website which encourages people to read on. It is often paid for by the advertiser ("Paid" click bait) or generates income based on the number of clicks."

clickbait graphic

Image source:
"mouse-cursor-hand-finger-click-1626473" by janjf93 is in the Public Domain, CC0

Media Bias 
"Media bias"  is the bias -- or perceived bias -- of journalists and news producers within the mass media in the selection of events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. 

For example, if people describe Fox News as "conservative" or The New York Times as "liberal," they are reflecting this concept of "media bias."

Types of Media bias:

  • Bias by omission - leave out information that may support a different point of view; ignoring facts and research that may disprove claims or support beliefs.
  • Bias by selection of sources - "confirmation bias" - including more sources that support one point of view; when they quote experts or say "most people" they may only use "experts" from one side of an issue.
  • Bias by story selection -  a news outlet repeatedly covers a story from one point of view and neglects to cover the other point of view, or covers it briefly; stories supporting the bias of the news outlet are chosen over stories from an opposing bias
  • Bias by placement - a news story that is placed at the top of a website, at the beginning of a news show, on the cover of a print news product will let you know what they consider of primary interest; a media outlet with a different bias may only cover this story briefly, or not at all.
  • Bias by labeling - a news organization will use either mild or extreme labels to identify elements of a story; if they use "liberal" or "conservative" to identify a source, the reader can deduce their bias. However, often terms like "alt right" or "extreme left" or "ultra-conservative" or "left wing liberal" or "bleeding heart liberal" to label those with an opposite bias and use more neutral terms to label their opinions, this is bias by labeling.

Confirmation bias - in research, selective interpretation of new evidence as confirming, or agreeing with, one's existing beliefs or theories. It can be shown in 3 ways:

  • Biased search - favoring evidence and resources that are supporting and agreeing with the journalist.
  • Biased interpretation - interpreting and explaining and understanding the evidence according to belief of the journalist.
  • Biased memory - even when confronted with contradictory evidence, it is selectively remembered, and is not critically understood and filtered through previous understanding.


Source:  "Pitfalls of Thinking: Confirmation Bias" by C0nc0rdance is licensed under cc by 4.0 

"The term “filter bubble” refers to the results of the algorithms that dictate what we encounter online. According to Eli Pariser, those algorithms create 'a unique universe of information for each of us … which fundamentally alters the way we encounter ideas and information.'” Farnam Street

How social media filter bubbles work

How Can We Avoid Filter Bubbles?

Thankfully, it is not difficult to pop the filter bubble if we make an effort to do so. Methods for doing this include:

  • Using ad-blocking browser extensions. These remove the majority of advertisements from websites we visit. The downside is that most sites rely on advertising revenue to support their work, and some (such as Forbes and Business Insider) insist on users' disabling ad blockers before viewing a page.
  • Reading news sites and blogs which aim to provide a wide range of perspectives. Pariser’s own site, Upworthy, aims to do this. Others, including The Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, BBC, and AP news claim to offer a balanced view of the world. Regardless of the sources we frequent, a brief analysis of the front page will provide a good idea of any biases. In the wake of the US election, a number of newsletters, sites, apps, and podcasts are working to pop the filter bubble. An excellent example is Colin Wright's podcast, Let’s Know Things (, which examines a news story in context each week.
  • Switching our focus from entertainment to education. As Nicholas Carr writes in The Shallows: “The Net’s interactivity gives us powerful new tools for finding information, expressing ourselves, and conversing with others. It also turns us into lab rats constantly pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social or intellectual nourishment.”
  • Using Incognito browsing, deleting our search histories, and doing what we need to do online without logging into our accounts.
  • Deleting or blocking browser cookies. For the uninitiated, many websites plant “cookies” (small text files) each time we visit them; those cookies are then used to determine what content to show us. Cookies can be manually deleted, and browser extensions are available which remove them. In some instances, cookies are useful, so removal should be done with discretion.

Media literacy: As defined by the Media Literacy Project, "media literacy" is "the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media. Media literate youth and adults are better able to understand the complex messages we receive from television, radio, Internet, newspapers, magazines, books, billboards, video games, music, and all other forms of media."

Related keywords and concepts:  digital literacyinformation literacyinformation fluency

How "media literacy" and "information literacy" connect:

Information Literacy Umbrella

"Information Literacy Umbrella" by Dana Longley is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Thank you, Tacoma Community College for this information which has been adapted for our use!

Videos to Watch

Source:  "Fake News Recognizing It" by Staples Library Learning Commons, Dec. 2016, Standard YouTube License.

Ferial Haffajee, editor-at-large of The Huffington Post South Africa, explains what the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) is currently doing about the fake news in the country.

"Truth" Essay TIdbits