NewsNews Literacy Project


Palm Beach County teacher strives to educate students about news literacy

Eric Jourgensen aims to help produce productive members of society
Posted at 8:00 AM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-24 08:42:45-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A South Florida journalism teacher has a passion for teaching news literacy.

Eric Jourgensen, a teacher at Palm Beach Central High School, said the way he has taught this subject, and the focus on it, has changed over the course of his long career educating on media. He said it's all about giving students a sense of awareness of what's real and what's not.

"It's the students being able to decipher what they see," he said.

He said the ability to discern fact from fiction, real news versus fake news, is getting more and more difficult, "especially with the proliferation of social media."

Jourgensen uses a favorite example, an exercise on the presentation of information.

"I go talking about a chemical, dihydrogen monoxide, and how dangerous it is, and all the damage that it can cause, and we go through all the studies that have been done with it," he said. "And by the time I'm done talking about it, they're ready to sign a petition to do away with it, and then I explain to them that dihydrogen monoxide is H20, it's water. Then they start to see a lot of it was how the information was presented to them, and they just so easily fell into, 'That's horrible.'"

Eric Jourgensen explains news literacy experiment he conducts with his students
Palm Beach County high school teacher Eric Jourgensen explains how he presents his students with information about the dangers of dihidrogen monoxide before later revealing it's actually water.

Jill Patel, a student, said she was there for the lesson and said it was really interesting how people were reacting to it. She said she and her peers need this knowledge.

"Understanding news literacy and, like, fake news versus real news, and understanding the meaning behind things we see on social media is definitely important, especially for the prominence that we have on social media," she said.

Jourgensen hopes his early lessons in the classroom will serve students and prepare them for life beyond the classroom.

"I look at my goal as a teacher to put out productive members of society," he said. "Whether they are going to college, university, the workforce, military, whatever the case may be, they need to be able to take in information and know that they are making the best decision taking in all the information that's available to them, not just a single source."