That’s incredible

How students at one California high school are learning to discern what is (and isn't) news

“A lot of students believe all news is created equal,” says Alan Miller of the News Literacy Project, which helps kids learn to assess the information they encounter. “At a younger age, they sometimes believe that if someone put it online, it must be true.” Older high-school students grow more wary of “bias, whether personal, commercial, or ideological.”

To get a closer look at the cohort coming up behind the millennials, CJR in March asked the students in Esther Wojcicki’s classes at California’s Palo Alto High School how they view the news ecosystem. Founded by Wojcicki in 1984, Palo Alto’s is the largest scholastic journalism program in the US, serving 600 kids. (And Wojcicki herself has serious cred in these parts: Google began in her daughter Susan’s garage—Susan’s still a Google exec—and daughter Anne, cofounder of 23andMe, is married to Google cofounder Sergey Brin.)

As ninth grader Jamie Har put it: “By the time I hear the news, the story has already passed through several people. I cannot know whether the information is completely accurate or how much opinion is in what I hear. Most of the time, the news does not interest me enough for me to go look up more about it.” Sounds like a normal teenager, right?

All their essays are linked below.

Angela Stern, grade 11 — “As a teenager in today’s society, I spend a great deal of time every day on my cell phone.”

Heather Strathearn, grade 11 — “I turn to mobile apps and quick snippets of news on social media sites (such as a cnn post on facebook) out of convenience.”

Nikhil Rajaram, grade 9 — “Personally, the only exposure I get to news and current events is through Reddit, and I mostly only see updates about things like the situation in North Korea.”

James Pedersen, grade 9 — “I am constantly worrying about the credibility of my news.”

Jamie Har, grade 9 — “As a high-school teenager, accessing news is not my major concern.”

Julia Kwasnick, grade 11 — “People choose which sources they choose to read or listen to and accept as the truth.”

Maya Kandell, grade 9 — “I think that the credibility of a news source is always an issue, and Twitter is not the ideal place to go if you want to be properly informed.”

Ariya Momeny, grade 9 — “If I hear the news from multiple sources, then I will assume it’s true.”

Stephenie Zhang, grade 11 — “I was once searching for news online outside of my reliable aggregate of The Economist, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Time magazine. I ended up stumbling upon The Onion….”

Shivonne Logan, grade 11 — “This proliferation of sources available to us seems to make our lives easier, and spread awareness of current events.”

This piece ran in CJR’s May/June 2013 edition as a sidebar to Ben Adler’s cover story on how millennials get their news.

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.