Lesson Plans

What Is Media Literacy and How Do We Practice It Using Pulitzer Center Reporting?

Washington Global students hard at work on their milestones. Image by Eslah Attar. United States, 2017.


In honor of Media Literacy Week 2020, the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) is focusing on five components of media literacy: Access, Analyze, Evaluate, Create, and Act. In this lesson, students will explore these five elements through engagement with Pulitzer Center news stories. 


Students will be able to...

  • Describe what it means for a story to be under-reported. 
  • Apply the following five components of media literacy to Pulitzer Center reporting: Access, Analyze, Evaluate, Create, and Act.


1. What is news?

  • Concept Map: News
    • With a partner, write down the word “News” on the middle of a blank sheet of paper and draw a circle around it.
    • Outside of the circle, write down other words/phrases that come to mind when you think of news. Then, draw a line connecting these phrases to the middle circle. See an example here!
    • Reflect: What kind of news have you been hearing about lately? Write these down, too.
    • Share: As you and your partner brainstormed together, did you find out anything surprising?

2. Where do you get your news? What do you see and what is missing?

  • Think: Where do you think people in the U.S. are getting most of their news?
    •  See the graph below and compare the results with your initial thoughts. Do these results surprise you?
  • What stories do you see most in the news? What stories do you think are missing? 
  • How does accessing more news online influence what we see and what we don’t see in the news?

    Survey of U.S. adults conducted by the Pew Research Center, 2018.

3. How can you apply media literacy to news?

As more people get news online, there has been increased discussion about media literacy, which is defined by NAMLE as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication. Let’s break down the five themes of media literacy according to NAMLE. Reflect on why each component is important to news, and write down your response on a separate sheet of paper: 

  • Access: How, when, where, and how often people have access to the tools, technology, and digital skills necessary to thrive.
  • Analyze: Analyzing media content is the process of asking questions about a piece of media in order to identify authorship, credibility, purpose, technique, context, and economics.
  • Evaluate: Evaluating media content involves drawing one’s own meaning, judgment, and conclusions about media messages based on the information gathered during media access, thoughtful analysis, and self-reflective interpretation.
  • Create: Media creation is a form of expression. It encompasses learning how to express ideas through media and communication tools and using that power to create media narratives beyond those that exist in mainstream media.
  • Act: Act(ion) is the culmination of accessing, analyzing, and evaluating media messages. We act by engaging civically as the result of thoughtful access, analysis, and evaluation of media messages we receive. 

4. Media literacy and the Pulitzer Center: What is an under-reported story? 

Watch the following video. While you do, think:

  • Why are under-reported stories important? What’s an under-reported issue you care about and think deserves to be told?
  • How might the way people consume news via social media affect what news we see and what news we don’t see?
  • How does engagement with under-reported stories support the five components of media literacy?

Introducing the Lesson:

Now that we are familiar with the five components of media literacy, let’s explore how to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act as we examine Pulitzer Center news reporting. Using the instructions below, practice these five components of media literacy while exploring one under-reported news story supported by the Pulitzer Center!


1. Consider the following:

  • What under-reported issues are you drawn to?
  • What challenges might a reader face in trying to access under-reported stories?

2. One way that the Pulitzer Center aims to increase access to under-reported stories is by publishing the news stories we support on our website. One reason we do this is to make sure that stories are accessible to people who don’t have subscriptions to all of the news outlets our journalists collaborate with to publish under-reported stories. Access an under-reported news story by visiting pulitzercenter.org/reporting.

From there, you have two options:

  1. Find a topic of interest by typing keyword(s).
  2. Click “Show Advanced” to narrow your search even more!
    • Enter keyword(s) again.
    • Choose a story/article by publication date.
    • Select one or multiple issues using the drop-down menu.
    • Explore stories based on tag, region, and country/area.
    • Filter by author and by publication.
    • Last, but not least, you can filter by media. You may consider exploring photo essays, audio stories, or videos!

2. Let’s Practice!

  • Individually, go to pulitzercenter.org/reporting and find one story that interests you. You will be using this story throughout the rest of this lesson!

Find news stories using these advanced browsing options at https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting. Consider: Where was your story published? Is this an outlet you have accessed before? Why or why not?


Regardless of the media you choose (text, audio, visuals), each story will have key pieces of information that will help you break down and analyze the reporting.  

1. As you review the story you selected, reflect on the questions below on a separate piece of paper.

  • Who is this story about?
  • Who is the author (who wrote/made the story) and why are they telling this story?
  • What details stood out to you from the story the journalist reported? Use these details to write a 3-5 sentence summary of the story.
  • What issues or themes is this story exploring?
  • What is the tone of this story? What biases might the story have?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Where is the author getting their information?
  • What is the method of storytelling (Is the author primarily using photographs, sounds? Are any special techniques being used to tell the story)?
  • Is anything being left out?

2. Now that you have picked and looked through a piece of reporting, exchange stories with a partner. After you have had a chance to look at your partner’s story, share your analyses with one another.


Analyzing a story requires asking questions that often only have one right answer. Evaluating a story digs even deeper, and involves making personal conclusions about what you are reading. Let’s continue to work with your story!

You and your partner will be evaluating your stories together, one story at a time. The following discussion questions can be used to evaluate stories. Pick three to five questions below to help you evaluate and discuss each story. Write your responses on a separate sheet of paper. 

  • What lines/images/moments stuck out to you, and why?
  • What surprised you? What do you want to know more about? 
  • Are you familiar with the issues covered in this story? If so, does this story discuss these issues differently than other stories you’ve heard before?
  • What emotions do you feel when reading this story, and why?
  • How did the author tell the story? Why do you think the author chose this method? Do you think the author’s storytelling methods were effective? 
  • Why do you think this qualifies as an under-reported story?
  • What connections can you make between this story, and issues/people/places in your own community? 
  • Is this story credible? Why? Is it fact, opinion, or something else?
  • How could people interpret this story differently?


Now that you have accessed, analyzed, and evaluated an under-reported story, use one of the activities below to explore how you can begin effectively and ethically telling under-reported stories that are important to you! As you work to create your own resource, keep in mind: What is your agenda, intent, and personal bias?

1. Letter Writing

Write a letter in response to the under-reported story you chose or another under-reported issue you care about. You may choose to format your letter in the following ways: 

  • Write a response to the author of the story and tell them what inspired you.
  • Write a letter to a friend or family member who might not know about the issue covered in the story. Summarize the story and explain why the issue is important to you. 
  • Write a letter to a local official and encourage them to take action on the issue covered in the story or another issue you care about (Find an extension activity for this below).

2. Photo Essay

Did you read about an issue that you see in your own community? Create a photo essay to convey your point of view on this issue, or create a photo essay that communicates another issue you care about.

Inspiring examples: 


NAMLE defines act(ion) as the culmination of accessing, analyzing, and evaluating media messages. Action can take many forms including civic participation, education, and personal decisions in your community. How can we take action to share under-reported stories? Try the following: 

  1. Seek out under-reported stories.
    • You’ve learned how to access, analyze, and evaluate these stories already. Keep the cycle going by continuing to seek, learn, and advocate for issues you care about.
  2. Encourage the spread of reliable news and media.
  3. Create a letter advocating for change to submit to the Local Letters for Global Change writing contest!
    • Using Pulitzer Center reporting, write a letter to a local elected representative that explains a global issue you want them to prioritize. 
    • Find details for the contest and see examples of letters here: Local Letters for Global Change: A Pulitzer Center Writing Contest!
      • Contest Deadline: Friday, November 13th, 2020 at 11:59PM EST

Tell your representative what global issue you want them to prioritize!

Educator Notes: 

Explore further:

This lesson is aligned with the following Common Core Standards:


Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.


Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.


Support claim(s) with clear reasons and relevant evidence, using credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.


Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

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