|De’Andre McCottry, 20, a True Star Media street team ambassador, was one of four young adults who promoted the “Get Proof” campaign at 12 schools in Chicago this spring. Photo by Mary Owen
De'Andre McCottry: Getting Proof
On a cafeteria lunch table scattered with bags of chips and juice boxes, De’Andre McCottry throws down two dubious-sounding stories from the Internet and a picture of Bill Gates holding a sign promising to donate $50,000 if the photo is shared.
“Which one is true?” asks McCottry, a True Star Media street team ambassador, during a May 20 news literacy-focused Lunchroom Takeover at the Air Force Academy High School in Chicago.
The event is part of True Star’s “Get PROOF” campaign, which encourages young people to think more critically about information before believing and sharing it. Working with the News Literacy Project, several youth ambassadors took their campaign to lunchrooms in 12 Chicago Public Schools sites over three weeks this spring.
At the Air Force Academy, students clamored over the print-outs and shouted out guesses about the items’ validity. The Gates photo was fake, as was a story about an alleged fight between two NBA players. A third piece about a 30-year-old woman improbably posing as a 13-year-old was true.
After the reveal, students keep listening as McCottry, 20, and his three colleagues discuss credibility, fact-checking and sources.
“There is so much bad information out there,” said McCottry, a 2012 Julian High School graduate who is transferring to Chicago State University in the fall to study broadcasting. “The things that people create and other people share [are] crazy.”
McCottry was one of seven True Star ambassadors who received News Literacy Project training. As a result, he said, he has changed his practices online.
“Since we did the training, I’m more of like a vigilante,” said McCottry, who plans to attend the News Literacy Summit in Chicago this fall.
The Get PROOF campaign is supported by a “Why News Matters” grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
DeAnna McCleary, co-founder and executive director of True Star, a nonprofit multimedia organization for Chicago teens, said that McCottry and the other ambassadors are especially effective because they are passionate about knowing what to believe online.
Get PROOF, she said, “is a call to action."