by Alan C. Miller, Founder/CEO, News Literacy Project
The News Literacy Project is a national education nonprofit, founded in 2008 and located in Bethesda, Maryland, that works with educators and journalists to teach secondary school students how to sort fact from fiction in the digital age and to give those students the tools to become informed and engaged citizens in a democracy. We are teaching literacy for the 21st century.
In our first eight years, our classroom, after-school and digital programs reached more than 25,000 students in diverse middle schools and high school students in the Washington, D.C., region (including the Maryland and Virginia suburbs), New York City, Chicago, and Houston. We have formed partnerships with 33 news organizations and enrolled more over 400 journalist fellows in our online directory; our volunteer journalists have delivered more than 750 lessons, both in person and virtually.
In May 2016, we launched the checkology® virtual classroom, the culmination of all our work to date and our primary path to national and international scale. In just over one year, 7,000 educators in every state in the U.S. and in 61 other countries, with a potential reach of more than 1 million students, have registered to use this platform.
While these numbers are gratifying, we know that there is more to do. In the United States alone, there are 26 million public school students in grades 6-12, as well as the millions in private and parochial schools and in after-school, home-school and library programs — not to mention those students in schools and other programs outside the U.S. We look forward to dramatically expanding the reach of the checkology® virtual classroom among these students.
Even as we improve and expand the current platform, we’re preparing for its next iteration, along with international and Spanish-language versions. We have plans to reach beyond the classroom with a mobile-friendly app, which will likely be a news literacy game. Finally, we are working with Facebook on a public service advertising campaign to encourage millions of the platform’s engaged users to critically evaluate the news and information they share and to share only what is credible.
A healthy democracy depends on engaged citizens who can sort through vast amounts of information, separate fact from fiction, and know what to trust. Today, misinformation, rumor and spin can overwhelm real news, and the News Literacy Project provides the tools to meet this challenge. We’re working to give facts a fighting chance and to create an appetite for quality journalism. You could say that we were the antidote to “fake news” long before the term gained its recent currency.
We are inspired by these challenges, by the tremendous opportunity to make a meaningful difference and by an urgent sense of responsibility to move as quickly as possible to meet the growing demand for our services. Since the emergence of the field of news literacy a decade ago (a field that we helped to create), we have gone from being a voice in the wilderness to an answer to prayer for many.
We’re particularly inspired by the educators and journalists who partner with us to deliver our curriculum and by the students who find it transformative. Those students include Christian Armstrong, who said of his experience with NLP as a student at Leo Catholic High School in Chicago: “This class has definitely changed my life. We prioritize news literacy over all else. The newspaper is considered to be our Holy Grail.” And Jenari Mitchell, a recent graduate of KIPP DC College Preparatory in Washington, who wrote in an essay about her NLP experience: “Learning how to distinguish between false and factual information allows us to control the news we consume, instead of allowing the news we consume to control us.”
The News Literacy Project aspires to see news literacy embedded in the American educational experience, inside the classroom and outside of it. We want to teach many millions of young people how to know what news and information to believe, share and act on as students, consumers and citizens. We also hope to begin to change the culture so that people will take personal responsibility to stand up for facts and for quality journalism.
Our website is www.thenewsliteracyproject.org. Anyone who wants more information or has questions can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome volunteers, including journalist fellows who can play various roles with us. People can engage with us through social media, as educators and journalist fellows, and as financial supporters. Please let us know your interest and we will respond. Finally, educators can register for the virtual classroom at www.checkology.org.