Harm & Distrust
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Average Duration
>60 min.
Difficulty Level
Lesson Host
Natalie Moore
of WBEZ Chicago

Learn about the historical failure of mainstream news organizations to serve all people equally, the legacies of distrust this has caused among specific groups in America — particularly Black Americans — and recent efforts by news outlets to improve their coverage.

News literacy topics

A free press; Bias; Digital citizenship; Fact-checking and verification; Investigative journalism/watchdog role; News judgment; Propaganda; Standards of quality journalism

Learning objectives

  • I can summarize the role journalism aspires to play in American democracy.
  • I can explain why news coverage that fails to fairly and accurately reflect the experiences and realities of all communities and groups of people falls short of the standards of quality journalism.
  • I can explain why it’s important for communities to be able to trust news organizations to tell their stories accurately.
  • I can list historical examples of legacy media failing to live up to its duty to minimize harm in relation to Black communities in the U.S.
  • I can explain why many Black Americans distrust legacy media and can apply this understanding to coverage of other groups of historically marginalized people.
  • I can summarize the essential role the Black press played in countering biased and racist narratives during Reconstruction and beyond.
  • I can recognize examples of overt racial bias in contemporary news coverage.
  • I can describe the watchdog role I can play in advocating for changes to make newsrooms more equitable and representative of the communities they serve.

Essential questions

  • In what ways does journalism require public trust? What are some things that can damage the public’s trust in news organizations?
  • How can the ethics and standards of quality journalism work to prevent harmful coverage of marginalized communities and groups?
  • In what ways have news organizations fallen short of these standards? How has coverage from legacy news media caused harm to and distrust from marginalized communities, particularly the Black community?
  • How has the lack of diversity in America’s newsrooms perpetuated bias in some coverage of Black communities in the U.S.? How has this impacted Black Americans?
  • What are some common forms that racial bias can take in news coverage?
  • When news organizations publish apologies for their historic racist coverage, is it a meaningful way to rebuild trust?
  • Should news organizations be transparent about the demographics of their reporting staff and management?
  • What are some new approaches to journalism that can promote better and more equitable coverage of issues impacting BIPOC communities, and rebuild trust?
  • What actions could you take to advocate for changes to make newsrooms more equitable and representative of the communities they serve?