(Fake) News is Racist

Mapping Culturally Relevant Approaches to Critical News Literacy Pedagogy


  • Nolan Higdon University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Allison Butler University of Massachusetts Amherst




Critical media literacy, Critical news literacy, Critical race theory, Culturally relevant pedagogy, Media literacy, White supremacy


Fake news, while problematic in its own way, is not an anomaly and though intimately connected to the Trump administration, did not begin, nor end, with his administration. Fake news is part of a larger environment of racism in the structure of the news, where stories of People of Color are often skewed in a negative way, positive contributions from People of Color are ignored, and where journalists of color may be sidelined. However, there is a dearth of news literacy curricula that centralizes the stories of People of Color. This is particularly problematic given the ways in which news perpetuates racism. This study utilizes critical media literacy coupled with critical race theory to develop culturally responsive news literacy curricula that centralizes stories about bodies of color as a way to make more comprehensive sense of our news and information media.

Author Biographies

Nolan Higdon, University of California, Santa Cruz

Nolan Higdon is an author and university lecturer at Merrill College and the Education Department at University of California, Santa Cruz. Higdon’s areas of concentration include podcasting, digital culture, news media history, and critical media literacy. Higdon is a regular contributor to Savage Minds and a Project Censored National Judge. He is the author of The Anatomy of Fake News: A Critical News Literacy Education (University of California Press, 2020). His most recent publications include Let’s Agree to Disagree: A Critical Thinking Guide to Communication, Conflict Management, and Critical Media Literacy (Routledge, 2022) with Mickey Huff and The Podcaster's Dilemma: Decolonizing Podcasters in the Era of Surveillance Capitalism (Wiley, 2021) with Nicholas Baham III. Higdon is a founding member of the Critical Media Literacy Conference of the Americas. In addition, he has been a source of expertise for CBS, NBC, The New York Times, and The San Francisco Chronicle

Allison Butler, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Allison Butler is a Senior Lecturer, Director of Undergraduate Advising, and the Director of the Media Literacy Certificate Program in the Department of Communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she teaches courses on critical media literacy and representations of education in the media. She is the author of numerous articles and books on media literacy, including Educating media literacy: The need for teacher education in critical media literacy (Brill, 2020) and Key scholarship in media literacy: David Buckingham (Brill, 2021). She is a co-author of multiple practical resources for media literacy education, including the open-source text Critical media literacy and civic learning: Interactive explorations for students and teachers (2021, EdTechBooks) and The media and me: A guide to critical media literacy for young people (2022, Seven Stories Press).