Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2018

Knowhere

News site aims to remove, expose political bias with mixed success

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
6–12
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Pros: Side-by-side presentation of news stories helps students get a good grasp of how facts are interpreted.

Cons: Reinforces some bad habits of old-school media literacy pedagogy; some stories may be blocked by filters or be inappropriate.

Bottom Line: This site can make it easier to show students how news gets interpreted from multiple viewpoints, but teachers should encourage students to think critically about Knowhere itself.

In today's political climate, facts are up for debate, many have retreated into media bubbles, and it's easy to encounter misleading or false information. Consequently, it can be easy for adults and kids alike to forget that every story is interpreted, and that stories get reported different ways to different audiences. With careful planning, Knowhere can be a useful news source to illustrate these issues to students, and to help teachers guide students through the ever-changing, murky world of modern media.

Have students check out trending stories on Knowhere. Encourage them to read critically, analyzing headlines and articles for bias and spin, by looking to see which facts authors include, which they leave out, and how Knowhere then categorizes them. Discuss authors' word choices and their impact on the tone of a particular article. Have students also reflect on and critique Knowehere's bias detection and categorization scheme. Does it seem accurate? How might all bias not be equally bad? What's lost in an "unbiased" article vs. it's biased versions? Compare Knowhere's "unbiased" reportage to an Associated Press or New York Times story. Is Knowhere's story better or more valuable?

Teachers can also have students dig into the perks and pitfalls of a free press, perhaps exploring why the founding fathers chose to make the first amendment about freedom of speech. Let students write their own news articles using different elements and rhetorical devices and then share with peers to see who can write content without bias, or with bias from different perspectives. Research journalism, credible sources, and the impact of news literacy (or lack thereof) on a representative democracy. Even the sometimes-inappropriate ad content on linked sites can provide teachable moments if teachers encourage discussion about how media outlets are funded and which types of companies advertise on different sites.

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Knowhere is a news site that purports to present current news in an impartial and unbiased manner thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) and editorial expertise. Starting with the premise "the truth is broken," the company's mission is to look deeply at the way news is reported and present stories in the most unbiased manner possible. Each article has three main options for reading: left, impartial, and right (liberal to conservative or blue to red). The site employs a proprietary AI tool called Cruncher that scours mainstream media news stories for keywords, details, and indicators of bias and spin. The editorial staff then presents the stories stripped of bias alongside left- and right-leaning articles about the same story. Underneath those options, there are links to additional articles on the same story with sources ranked by trustworthiness and color-coded in various shades of blue, neutral, and red. Users can opt to create accounts and unlock features that enable them to comment, rate articles for bias, recommend articles, communicate with editors, and get free access for life. 

Since the site relies on content from other media outlets, there's still the issue of important stories going unreported or not getting the media coverage that they deserve. Major media outlets still choose which stories warrant attention and may ignore those that don't fit their agenda or world view. While this may not be an issue Knowhere is equipped to solve, it's worth teaching students to look for which stories are missing from the national or international conversation.

Media is complicated. It's difficult to understand and perhaps even harder to teach, but Knowhere can give teachers tangible ways to help students navigate news and become more critical consumers. Thanks to Knowhere's handy visual comparison of articles, teachers can more easily help students see how news is affected by political perspective and how things like word choice can impact bias. Knowhere can also make it easier for students to consider differing viewpoints, and see how media outlets use spin to influence readers' interpretations of news stories. Students can consider how reporters focus on certain facts, how they present their arguments, what they leave out, and how this might affect readers. This can lead to productive discussions about first amendment freedoms as well as how important critical reading is to being civically engaged.

Knowhere, however, is also at risk of reinforcing some outdated approaches to news and media literacy, most notably that there's such a thing as "unbiased" news (and that algorithms are any less biased than humans), or that all biased information is equally harmful. With this in mind, teachers can help students understand that everything's got some bit of bias, even Knowhere's impartial stories and its algorithm. And given Knowhere's process for determining bias isn't transparent, we have to view its judgments critically. Most importantly, students should also understand that news outlets must be evaluated based on their credibility (do they fact-check and verify? is there an editorial process?), not just bias. Two articles that Knowhere presents as biased may differ substantially in terms of their credibility or accuracy.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

There's plenty of trending stories, but teachers will need to provide context, support, and activities to spark student interest.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

With teacher guidance, students can use Knowhere to compare and contrast news stories, identify rhetorical devices, and develop and refine media literacy skills.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

It's still in the early stages, so while it boasts a clean design, it does little to address different learning needs, languages, or skill levels. 

 


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Ruth S. , School support staff
School support staff
Mt. Diablo Unified School District
Concord, United States
Excellent resource for finding news articles and teaching digital literacy.
I think this is an excellent resource for teachers and students. I like that there are many different articles from many sources on the same topic or event. Links to primary sources are very helpful. It allows students to see how the different news sources put their spin on the facts found in the primary source .
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