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July 2017


President's Message 

Dear Friends of NLP, 

From the start, innovation and impact have distinguished the News Literacy Project as a national leader in the battle to give facts a fighting chance. 

In NLP News, you’ll see the impressive growth of our checkology® virtual classroom during its first full school year. We also share news about three grants that will help us continue to expand our reach, this year’s winners of the John S. Carroll Journalist Fellow Award and our fresh new look (coming soon).  

In Spotlight, you’ll learn about the potential impact of our partnership with public schools, the library system and media companies to bring news literacy to South Florida. Miami is one of five cities that NLP is targeting with the virtual classroom under a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.  

In our Profile, you'll discover why we chose Jenari Mitchell, a recent graduate of KIPP DC College Preparatory, as the first winner of NLP’s Gwen Ifill Student Journalist Award. Jenari immediately applied what she learned from her NLP lessons to her everyday life. Now, she says, she aspires to use this knowledge to gain “the confidence and fearless mentality as an African-American female that Gwen Ifill espoused.”   

NLP took an enormous leap forward in this past school year. But with 26 million students in public secondary schools alone (and millions more in independent and parochial schools and in after-school, library and home-school programs), we have a long way to go to reach our aspiration of seeing news literacy embedded in the American educational experience.

We’re grateful to those of you who have supported us to get to this promising point. We encourage all of you to learn more about us, get others involved in our growing news literacy community or make a donation today. Please take a stand for quality journalism and a healthy democracy!

All the best,

Alan C. Miller








Teachers and students praise our
checkology® virtual classroom!

We're using their feedback to improve their news literacy experience for the 2017-18 school year. Hear what they have to say about the virtual classroom.

NLP News

The Virtual Classroom Goes Global, Journalist Fellow Award Winners,
NLP’s New Look, ‘Thank You’ to Three Funders and a Cautionary Tale

Students at James Weldon Johnson Leadership Academy (MS 57) in East Harlem joined Bloomberg journalists, NLP staff and their teacher at Bloomberg’s headquarters in midtown Manhattan in June for the final session of their after-school program. The students spent several months studying news literacy and working on articles for the school’s Tiger 57 News. Photo by Alan Harper

Romania. Sweden. The Czech Republic. These are among the latest countries whose teachers have registered to use NLP’s checkology® virtual classroom. We’re now in 60 countries — in addition to all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories. In just over a year, more than 6,800 educators — who potentially reach more than 1 million students — have registered to use our innovative e-learning resource. Help us spread the word!

* * *

Paul Saltzman, the Sunday and investigations editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, and Tracie Potts, a Washington correspondent for NBC News Channel, are this year’s winners of NLP’s John S. Carroll Journalist Fellow Award. The award, given in honor of one of the most revered newspaper editors of his generation and NLP’s former chair, is presented annually to volunteer journalists who make significant contributions to NLP’s mission. The honorees are selected by a committee of NLP board members and staff.

Saltzman has delivered numerous classroom lessons, recruited colleagues as journalist volunteers and participated in online conversations with students, class field trips to the Sun-Times and other events. From the beginning, he has been involved in NLP’s e-learning efforts: He was featured in early video and digital lessons and leads the virtual classroom’s “What Is News?” lesson. Potts, a longtime volunteer with NLP, has delivered numerous classroom and online lessons and advocated on NLP's behalf. She is the host of the virtual classroom’s first lesson, “Know Your Zone: Sorting Information.”

The journalists each received $500 and an engraved glass plaque with an etched photo of Carroll, who served as editor of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, The Baltimore Sun and the Los Angeles Times.

And in other news:

  • Keep an eye out for NLP’s new style as we roll out our refreshed branding this month! The purple and teal color palette and the clean, modern typefaces represent NLP’s growth and recognition and its position as a national leader in the field of news literacy. The “lightbulb effect” in the dots box symbolizes how NLP “illuminates” students with newfound skills. NLP collaborated with LimeRed, a Chicago-based design agency, on the revisions.
  • NLP is grateful for our funders, whose support makes our progress possible. The Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation is a first-time contributor, providing $35,000 for general support. A $25,000 donation from the Dow Jones Foundation will be used to improve the virtual classroom. With its $15,000 grant, HBO is co-sponsoring our Virtual Visits — live, webinar-style interactive lessons with journalist fellows for students nationwide. The Dow Jones Foundation and HBO have supported NLP since 2014.
  • In our latest Teachable Moment, Craig Matsuda, a former editor at The Denver Post and the Los Angeles Times, writes about the consequences journalists may face when they don't hold themselves accountable on social media.

NLP in the News

  • Bethesda Magazine profiled NLP President/CEO Alan Miller in its July/August issue: “We’ve gone from being a voice in the wilderness to an answer to a prayer for many educators,” he says.
  • In a segment on CBS2 in Los Angeles about falsehoods involving celebrities, Miller discussed our partnership with Facebook in the fight against "fake news." In an interview with The New York Times’ media columnist, Jim Rutenberg, Miller described the explosion of “viral rumors, conspiracy theories and hoaxes” as a “wake-up call.” 
  • Our checkology® virtual classroom received praise from MediaShift and Wired. We’ve also expanded its use to the Miami-Dade Public Library System. 
  • Columbia Journalism Review piece highlighted NLP’s tips for evaluating the veracity of what we’re reading, watching and hearing. 

For more media mentions of NLP, go to NLP in the News on our website.

NLP Spotlight

Knight Foundation Partnership: Bringing News Literacy to Miami, Other U.S. Cities


A June 6 news literacy panel at the Miami-Dade Public Library System branch in Coral Gables featured (from left) Enrique Acevedo of Univision; Mirta Ojito, director of news standards at NBC/Telemundo; Jennifer Preston, vice president for journalism at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Alan Miller, NLP’s president/CEO; and Leila Khalil, the library system’s public affairs officer. Photo by Holly Pretzky

The stars are aligned to make Miami one of America’s most news-literate cities and to give the next generation of South Florida residents the skills to know what news and information to trust. 

Last month, the Miami-Dade Public Library System launched a pilot to introduce NLP’s checkology® virtual classroom in six of its 50 branches, beginning with lessons for teens this summer. This month, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation’s fourth-largest public school district, is adding the virtual classroom to its teacher guides as an approved secondary-school curriculum.

The Miami Herald and Miami-based Univision have committed to encouraging their journalists to participate with NLP. Univision has also expressed interest in collaborating with NLP to create a Spanish-language version of the virtual classroom.

NLP’s success in Miami is made possible with $225,000 in support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, announced last year. Knight funding, which runs through Sept. 30, calls for NLP to introduce the virtual classroom to middle schools and high schools, libraries and after-school programs in five cities where Knight invests (all of them locations where Knight Foundation’s founders once owned newspapers). In addition to Miami, NLP is working in Detroit, Philadelphia, Charlotte, N.C., and Lexington, Ky.

By any measure, the initiative has been a resounding success. In the five cities, 216 educators who teach 26,448 students have registered to use the virtual classroom (including educators with a potential reach of 2,849 students in Miami). The Philadelphia Inquirer published a front-page report on the platform, and Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen wrote about it as well. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has expressed interest in piloting the virtual classroom; NLP is holding its second set of training sessions with social studies teachers in that district next month.

But nowhere is the progress  and promise  greater than in Miami.

Teachers who have used the platform “really like checkology®,” said Robert Brazofsky, executive director of social sciences for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, which enrolls 345,000 students. ”They find it helpful in giving kids engaging materials” to teach news literacy.

Brazofsky expressed interest in collaborating in an ambitious effort to turn Miami into the most news-literate city in the country. This could include the district’s participation in one or more EdCamps, NLP's full-day professional development sessions for educators that are held at news organizations; the news outlets host the events and provide journalists as workshop facilitators.

In June, NLP President/CEO Alan Miller joined Jennifer Preston, Knight’s vice president for journalism, and others in Coral Gables, a Miami suburb, at a kickoff event for NLP’s pilot with the Miami-Dade Public Library System, which serves nearly 2.5 million residents. This partnership will bring the virtual classroom to scores of local students. NLP previously trained instructors to use the platform.

"We think it’s such a great fit and so important,” said Leila Khalil, the library system’s public affairs officer. “Librarians want to help you not only find an answer, but how to find an answer. We’re just thrilled about it and want to expand it even further to our librarians.”

NLP Profile

Jenari Mitchell: The First Winner of NLP’s Gwen Ifill Student of the Year Award 


Jenari Mitchell (right) and Tracie Potts of NBC News Channel were honored by NLP at our annual board and staff dinner. Photo by Damaso Reyes

When police in Washington, D.C., started using social media last March to post notices about missing children,17-year-old Jenari Mitchell said she and her friends were gripped with fear that there was a sudden epidemic of teens who had disappeared. Viral posts claiming that young women were being abducted and sold by sex traffickers enflamed their concerns.

Then, Mitchell recalled lessons she had learned from the News Literacy Project in her U.S. government class at KIPP DC College Preparatory, and decided to check the rumors out.

What she discovered brought relief to her and her friends: The number of missing youths had actually declined, and most of the young women who had been reported as missing during that period were runaways.

Mitchell’s brave dose of skepticism and her ability to quickly apply news literacy lessons to the world around her led NLP to present her with its first Gwen Ifill Student of the Year Award. It honors the venerated broadcast journalist (and longtime NLP board member) who died last year.

On June 21, at NLP’s annual dinner for staff and board members, Mitchell received an engraved glass plaque with an etched photo of Ifill, the former moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week” and co-managing editor and co-anchor of “PBS NewsHour." She also received a $250 gift card.

The sixth of eight children, Mitchell will begin classes in August at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., where she plans to study computer science and software development. Her government teacher at KIPP, Colleen Murphy, expressed confidence that Mitchell will take her news literacy lessons with her.

“Jenari is already using what she learned,” Murphy said. “She questions the authenticity of sources of information, she expects the media to uncover the truth, she speaks up for her rights. I think the exposure of the NLP came at a time when Jenari was receptive to its message and mission.”

In addition to applying her news literacy lessons by tracking down the viral rumors about missing teens, Mitchell also used them to develop an app with a friend. Called “Focus Token,” the app is designed to be a motivational and organizational tool for students. It includes a schedule, a goal tracker and resources for college, careers and support groups. “I made sure the resources were credible,” she said.

A committee of NLP staff and board members selected Mitchell for the award, which will be given annually to a female student of color who participates in NLP programs. Ifill joined our board in 2011 and never missed a chance to talk about NLP.

She was the first woman and first African-American to serve as moderator of “Washington Week” and teamed with Judy Woodruff at “PBS NewsHour” as the first female co-anchor team of a network news broadcast. Ifill’s legacy as a pioneer and role model was not lost on Mitchell.

“With this increased knowledge,” Mitchell wrote in an essay about her experience with NLP, ‘‘I am a more intelligent consumer of the news and aspire to the level of confidence and fearless mentality as an African-American female that Gwen Ifill espoused.”

The News Literacy Project provides the tools to sort fact from fiction and know what information to trust.

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