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December 2016


President's Message

Dear NLP Friends and Supporters,

“Your head must be exploding,” a prospective funder told me recently. “You’re at the center of the conversation.”


The bitterly divisive presidential campaign — followed by revelations about the prevalence of “fake news” and its possible impact on the outcome of the election — has transformed news literacy into a national priority. What was once seen as a scattershot problem is now a full-fledged epidemic.

Moreover, it is more important than ever that the next generation learns to appreciate the role of the First Amendment and a free press — especially its watchdog role — in a democracy.

In this newsletter, we look at some of NLP’s gains, as well as a monumental loss, as the curtain falls on a tumultuous 2016.

In NLP News, we welcome an exceptional new board member and express appreciation for the renewed support of an extraordinary funder and two grants from welcome new sources.

In our Profile, we highlight our successful long-term partnership with De La Salle Academy, a middle school that educates some of New York City’s most promising students from some of its most underserved communities.

In Spotlight, we honor the singular contributions of Gwen Ifill, who was an engaged and committed board member for five years before her death on Nov. 14 — far too soon. Her memory and the impeccable standards she set will remain an inspiration to us all as we move forward.

Our mission has never been more vital. This is our moment. We ask you to help us make the most of it — by sharing this newsletter with family and friends, encouraging educators you know to try our checkology™ virtual classroom and, if you haven’t already done so, making a donation to help us expand our reach.

Wishing you all the best for the holidays and a healthy, happy and news-literate New Year!


Alan C. Miller



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Watch: Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” calls news literacy “the foundation everything else is built on” in our democracy. 


NLP Event

NCSS Annual Conference 

Suarez (left), Gerson and Marcus discussed the presidential transition during the Dec. 4 keynote panel at the National Council for the Social Studies conference. Photo by Alan C. Miller

NLP played a prominent role at the National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference on Dec. 2-4 in Washington, D.C.

Peter Adams, NLP’s senior vice president for education programs, led a session on how educators can use actual examples of viral rumors to facilitate civic learning and engagement. He then joined Washington Post reporter Krissah Thompson and Steven Becton of Facing History and Ourselves for a panel discussion about the critical role of credible information in a robust democracy. 

The conference closed with an NLP-sponsored keynote discussion about the presidential transition in our hyper-partisan age, moderated by broadcast journalist Ray Suarez and featuring two of the nation’s leading columnists, Ruth Marcus and Michael Gerson, both of The Washington Post.

NLP News

A New Board Member, a Teachable Moments Item and Generous Financial Support

Alex Ptachick, a social media editor at USA Today, spoke with students from George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Va., during a Dec. 1 field trip to the news organization. Student editors from Rank & File, the school's newspaper, documented their experience on Snapchat. Photo by Elis Estrada

•   Eva Haller, a philanthropist, activist and luminary in the nonprofit world, joined NLP’s board last month. She has been informally advising NLP President Alan C. Miller for three years.

Haller, who as a teenager in Nazi-occupied Hungary was active in the resistance, has held leadership roles in nonprofits in New York City and elsewhere. For the last three decades, she and her husband, Dr. Yoel Haller, have been devoted to social, educational and environmental activism and philanthropy.

  Shortly before the presidential election, NLP posted its most recent Teachable Moments blog item, “The 2016 Coverage Balancing Act: How Trump’s Campaign Tests the Standards of Fairness.” The piece, by former Associated Press reporter Larry Margasak, explored how Donald Trump’s unconventional campaign challenged conventional political journalism notions of fairness and balance.

•   NLP recently received three grants: one from a longtime supporter and two from new funders.

The Charles H. Revson Foundation awarded NLP a $200,000 grant for 2017 to sustain both our program in New York City and our national capacity. This will mark the seventh consecutive year that the Revson Foundation has funded NLP, making it the most generous overall benefactor in our nine-year history.

The Rockefeller Foundation has approved a $150,000 grant to support the marketing, piloting, assessment, improvement and expansion of NLP’s checkology™ virtual classroom in 2017. This is our first grant from the foundation.

The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation has given NLP a $20,000 grant for the Washington, D.C., area program. This is the first time that the Dreyfus Foundation has supported us.

NLP greatly appreciates the confidence that all three foundations have shown in our work and the support that they have provided to further our mission.

NLP in the News

•   Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker used her Nov. 18 column to call for “greater public support and an accelerated timeline” for NLP’s programs.

•   NLP President Alan C. Miller tackled confirmation bias in the October issue of Social Education, the journal of the National Council for the Social Studies.

•   In advance of NLP’s “Satire Summit 2016: Beyond Parody?” event in New York City, Miller discussed the role of satire in this year’s presidential campaign on The Wall Street Journal’s “Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero” on Oct. 13. Three of the event’s panelists appeared on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” on Oct. 14 to discuss why political satire is such a potent force in American culture.

NLP Spotlight

Gwen Ifill: A Shining Star in the News Literacy Project Firmament

Gwen led a discussion on  "America's Changing Role in the World and How the Press Covers It" at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium in November 2013. Photo by Rick Reinhard

Gwen Ifill was a world-class journalist who was deeply committed to the News Literacy Project and embodied the values at the heart of our mission.

As co-managing editor and co-anchor of “PBS NewsHour” and the moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week,” Gwen had a remarkably busy schedule, piled high with demanding daily and weekly deadlines. Yet she always made time for NLP — signing on as one of our first journalist fellows in 2008, joining our board in 2011 and participating in five high-profile public events over the years.

With her clear, calm voice and easy, infectious smile, she was a marquee attraction. It was Gwen who was featured at the 2011 kickoff to herald NLP’s expansion into schools in the District of Columbia. In 2014, at the Council on Foundations’ annual conference, she moderated a panel with six NLP high school students that inspired many of the 1,100 philanthropic leaders in the audience.

She often said that she never missed an opportunity to talk about NLP and the importance of our mission — in interviews, on college campuses and, most recently, at an event at the Newseum on Sept. 29 (her 61st birthday), just six weeks before her death.

As a groundbreaking journalist and role model, Gwen epitomized the highest standards of accuracy, integrity and fairness. As an NLP mainstay, she gave credibility to our organization and strength to our purpose.

In 2011, Gwen moderated a student panel during the kickoff event at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School marking NLP's expansion into the District of Columbia. Photo by Tyrone Turner

She decided to join the NLP board, she said, because doing so represented an opportunity to build an appreciation and demand for quality journalism amid the rapidly changing media landscape.

“If we can create another generation of young people who have expectations for what journalism can be,” she said at the D.C. kickoff event, “we can say we didn’t just let it slip out of our hands.”

Gwen served on the governance committee, where she played a key role in deciding to approach an outstanding group of individuals who make up more than half the current board. She pushed to seek members who would bring expertise, experience, diversity and a strong commitment to NLP’s mission.

Her efforts extended to recruiting prominent colleagues to headline NLP events. All it took was a call or email from Gwen, whose admirers within the media were legion. Among those she lined up were Chuck Todd of NBC News, Robert Siegel of NPR and John Dickerson of CBS News.

In 2013, Gwen moderated a forum on “America’s Changing Role in the World and How the Press Covers It” at George Washington University. For that event she roped in Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, and Tom Friedman, foreign affairs columnist at The New York Times. As Mitchell said that evening: "Nobody says ‘no’ to Gwen Ifill."

We plan to honor her memory by creating the Gwen Ifill NLP Student of the Year Award for a female student who does outstanding work with NLP. The award will include a special experience at one of NLP’s 31 participating news organizations and a laptop or tablet.

Don Baer, who is chair of both the NLP and PBS boards and worked with Gwen over three decades, said about her contribution to NLP: "She embodied the very best about the mission of this organization. We will carry on in the way Gwen would have wanted, especially in these times that demand even more in terms of news literacy from every person in this country. She will always be an inspiration to us."

Her spirit will remain with us as we continue to foster the values by which she lived and worked. But oh, how we will miss her.

NLP Profile

De La Salle Academy: Empowering 21st-Century Learners, Thinkers and Leaders

Angel Gonzalez’s “Aha!” moment — the one that crystallized the value of teaching news literacy to his students at De La Salle Academy in New York City — came early in his partnership with the News Literacy Project. 

Broadcast journalist (and De La Salle alumna) Stephanie Officer returned to her old school for a classroom visit in March. Photo by Nicole Rothwell 

“I printed out a fake news article about how the U.S. Senate was going to change the names of all Latino people in the country to more Anglo-sounding names,” said Gonzalez, who teaches middle school social studies. “I told the kids that I really wanted them to think about this issue.”

Some students were horrified by what they were reading. But others were able to debunk the fake news article — and felt empowered to say so.

“That was a moment where I felt like I could clearly see the outcomes,” Gonzalez said, recalling his experience of nearly four years ago. “I could see them not just developing a set of skills, but a sense of confidence. … To me, that was the goal: to empower students to say, ‘This is not true.’”

Since then, Gonzalez, who has a doctorate in social and cultural studies in education from the University of California, Berkeley, has created similar moments in NLP units blended into his American Studies and Civil Rights classes every spring at De La Salle. The program is supported by a grant from HBO.

“What caught my attention about NLP was that it wasn’t just about current events,” he said. “For me, what was valuable about it was this idea of students being critical consumers, but also producers of knowledge, which I think is so important for our kids.”

NLP first partnered with De La Salle Academy — a private coeducational nonsectarian middle school for academically gifted students who are economically disadvantaged — in 2012. During a semester-long journalism and news literacy elective, students worked with seven NLP journalist fellows to create a multimedia website about the impact of e-books.

“It was just amazing,” recalled the school’s founder, Brother Brian Carty. “The connection was instantaneous.”

After NLP’s classroom program found a home in De La Salle’s social studies department, Gonzalez partnered with NLP staff to deliver core lessons and provide opportunities for students to engage with a diverse group of journalists.

Visiting The New York Times in April, De La Salle Academy students joined Marc Lacey (back row, far right), a senior editor and NLP journalist fellow, for an editorial meeting. Photo by Elis Estrada

David Gonzalez, a longtime reporter, photojournalist and editor at The New York Times and a recent recipient of NLP’s John S. Carroll Journalist Fellow Award, has worked closely with De La Salle students over the years. In 2013, for example, he taught them how the standards of journalism are applied to stories told through the medium of photography and offered tips and feedback on student work.

Other highlights included multiple visits to Angel Gonzalez’s class by Daisy Rosario, a producer at NPR’s “Latino USA,” who led interview workshops.

After one of Rosario’s visits, Gonzalez said, “a lot of kids wanted to interview people, they wanted to practice, and they felt empowered to do so. It showed the possibility of what the program can be in terms of generating interest and excitement about using a skill in the world, and that’s something that’s really hard to do as a teacher.” 




The News Literacy Project (NLP) is an innovative national education program that equips middle school and high school students with the tools to be smart, active consumers of news and information and engaged, informed citizens.

Click here to learn more about NLP, and visit NLP's YouTube channel.

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NLP thanks its major funders and all those whose support makes our program possible.


Copyright © 2016 The News Literacy Project. All rights reserved.