A Teen's Guide to Election Coverage (page 2)

A Teen

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Updated on Nov 1, 2012

Read the Media

As you read and watch more news, you learn to evaluate information. Here are tips:

Identify faulty facts:

  • Check information through independent sources like,, or Click on an organization’s “About Us” link to learn more about the organization.

Distinguish facts from opinions:

  • Differentiate between editorials (offering perspectives) and news stories (reporting facts without opinions). 
  • Contrast a reporter from a “pundit,” or political commentator. Compare shows like The View, Hannity & Colmes, and Larry King Live to broadcasts like NBC Nightly News or BBC World News. Which ones offer authoritative opinions?
  • Readers post comments online in response to news and editorials, which act like letters to the editor. Sift through this “discourse,” or exchange of ideas, but be mindful. These are opinions of readers: people like you – and different from you.

Evaluate advertisements:

  • Ads have ominous voiceovers and contain “messages that are partisan and sometimes inflammatory and that often use scare tactics to make emotional points,” reports Liz Perle at Common Sense Media. An ad isn’t fact or fiction, but more a point of view. You can agree or disagree with it, says Perle.
  • Investigate who supports an ad by reading the “fine print” at the bottom or end of a TV spot. Then, Google the name(s) listed. Repeat this sleuthing for state proposition ads.
  • The Center for Media Literacy says political advertising follows a three-stage cycle: first, biographical ads of candidates; next, ads about their platforms on issues like health care and taxes; and last, ads that attack the opposition. When you watch an ad, decide under which phase it falls.
Satire Essentials

In politically uncertain times, we turn to humor for laughs and refreshing perspectives. You are probably familiar with Tina Fey’s portrayal of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, as well as Stephen Colbert’s false-conservative show, The Colbert Report, on Comedy Central. News satire like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show is considered “fake news,” but very powerful.

The Daily Show is probably more reliable for news than anything on TV except PBS,” writes Barry McKernan, an instructor at Manhattan Community College. “It unspins the news.” Also check out The Onion, which covers the election at “War for the White House”; New Yorker cartoons, which make you think; and America: A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction, an amusing but insightful mock history textbook. Satire relies on “deadpan” or dry humor – don’t mistake it for real news! When in doubt, Google the organization. (Its Wikipedia page may serve as a starting point for research, but don’t rely solely on it.)

Phew, that’s a lot of information. Our best advice is to help your teen filter and reflect on everything she reads, sees, and hears, which will prepare her for the big event November 4.



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