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May 2016


President's Message

Dear NLP Friends and Supporters,

Amid a presidential campaign that continues to underscore the growing need for a news-literate nation, we believe that news literacy is about to take a giant leap forward.

This newsletter focuses on our checkology™ e-learning platform, the culmination of all of the News Literacy Project’s work to date — and our primary path to national scale.

It is a highly engaging set of news literacy lessons and educational tools that feature prominent journalists and other experts as virtual teachers. The interactive lessons capture the experience of NLP’s classroom program, as well as its content.

Our video is a short excerpt from the first lesson in the platform, delivered by Tracie Potts of NBC News Channel.

Our Spotlight offers an overview of the platform and includes the link where educators can access it.

Our Profile focuses on Nicco Mele, a digital pioneer and educator who has played an integral part in helping NLP get to this stage. He also leads a lesson in the platform on the role of algorithms in personalizing information online.

In NLP News, we proudly highlight the participation of two of our New York City students during the announcement of the Pulitzer Prizes on April 18, as well as a Teachable Moments blog item focusing on the watchdog role of the journalism that has won the Public Service prize. We’re also pleased to share the news of four grants from longtime funders — the kind of support that has made the creation of the checkology™ platform possible.

Curriculum leaders in some of the country’s largest school districts and extended-day programs have already expressed considerable interest in the platform. We hope that you, too, will check it out and share your feedback with us.

In the meantime, we are, as always, grateful for your role in helping us reach this exciting milestone.

All the best,


Alan C. Miller









A Sneak Peek at the checkology™ Platform

Get a sneak peek of the checkology™ platform! In this excerpt from the first lesson, NBC News Channel reporter Tracie Potts guides students in sorting information based on its primary purpose. Potts is one of several prominent journalists who serve as virtual teachers throughout the lessons. 



Help Us Create a News-Literate Next Generation!

We're looking for middle school and high school teachers to try our checkology™ e-learning platform this spring. Mini-grants for premium access to the platform are available to teachers in underserved communities. Please help us get the word out about this opportunity! Educators can request a mini-grant here.

NLP students (from left) Gretta Yagudayeva, Isabella Cordero and Stephanie Sileo attended the announcement of the centennial year Pulitzer Prizes. Yagudayeva and Cordero are seniors at Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn and co-editors of the student newspaper, The Murrow Network; Sileo is a senior at Cristo Rey New York High School in East Harlem. Photo by Elis Estrada

NLP News
Partnerships for the Pulitzers and for NLP's Growth

The News Literacy Project has been an active participant in the centennial celebration of the Pulitzer Prizes, whose winners were announced in New York City on April 18.

Our latest Teachable Moments post, “The Pulitzer Prizes: 100 Years of Honoring Journalism That Makes a Difference,” explores how this year’s winners reflect the award’s role in underscoring the watchdog role of a free press in a democracy.

In addition, our partnership with the Pulitzer Prize Centennial Celebration of “100 years of excellence in journalism and the arts” provided an opportunity for three students in our New York City classroom program to attend the announcement of the awards. Two of them demonstrated their news literacy know-how and journalistic skills when they posed thoughtful questions to Pulitzer Prize administrator Mike Pride during a Q&A session. You can watch the announcement on YouTube, and check out the NLP students’ questions starting at 29:45.

And speaking of important partnerships, NLP is extremely pleased to announce four grants from foundations and news organizations that know us well. Each has annually supported NLP and its mission for five years or longer.

  • The Robert R. McCormick Foundation has renewed its support for NLP’s Chicago program with a $200,000 grant for 2016. The foundation has been a leader in the news literacy field since it made its initial grant to NLP in 2009 — our first year in the classroom.
  • Bloomberg has renewed its $75,000 annual grant to fund NLP programs in partnership with the news organization’s bureaus and individual middle schools and high schools in New York City, Washington and Chicago. Bloomberg has been a supporter since 2011.
  • The David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation renewed its $35,000 grant, which will support NLP’s New York City program in 2016. The foundation also has funded NLP since 2009.
  • The New York Times renewed its annual $10,000 grant. The Times, which made its first gift in 2012, has been a participating news organization since NLP was founded in 2008. 

Finally, NLP is hiring a program coordinator for New York. Our current New York program manager, Elis Estrada, is moving to Arlington, Va., to lead our work in the Washington area, which includes schools in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs. We plan to fill the New York position by July 5. Please share the job description with anyone who might be interested.

NLP in the News

The Importance of News Literacy in a Digital Age
Adviser Update, published by the Dow Jones News Fund, profiles NLP’s trendsetting role in shaping the news literacy field. Sifting through mounds of information in a digital age, Richard J. Levine writes, is a “critical skill” — one NLP aptly helps to hone.

Civility in the Classroom: News Literacy!
Summer Moore, digital and audience engagement editor at The Times of Northwest Indiana, writes about her volunteer experience teaching news literacy to high school freshmen, and about how NLP’s News Literacy Is … video helped her succeed.

NLP Spotlight
The News Literacy Project's checkology Platform: 'A Dream Come True for Teachers'

Seniors Jayda Molina (left) and Gislaine Garcia participate in NLP’s April pilot of the checkology™ e-learning platform at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens. Photo by Meredith W. Gonçalves

A New York City high school educator called it “a dream come true for teachers.”

A Chicago school administrator described it as a promising way to learn about social media and digital citizenship. 

Even before its national launch this week, the News Literacy Project’s checkology™ e-learning platform was making a strong impression.

This set of highly engaging digital lessons and educational resources is the culmination of all of NLP’s work to date and will serve as the project’s primary path to national scale.  As a first step, NLP completed a small number of pilots in New York City and the Washington, D.C., area last month.

Scott Murphy, the director of secondary curriculum and districtwide programs for Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools, said, “I’m really impressed by a level of complexity that is accessible for all students in a classroom and the ways that it gets students to engage in critical thinking and to think deeply.”

The platform features 10 core lessons that give students a foundation in news literacy; they include a focus on the role of the First Amendment and watchdog journalism in a democracy, along with skills and concepts that help students determine how to know what to believe when encountering news and other information. Journalists from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, NBC News, Bloomberg and the Chicago Sun-Times are joined by experts on the First Amendment and digital media as virtual teachers and video-based guides. 

It incorporates many of the best practices in e-learning, including self-pacing, blended and experiential learning, personalization, rich formative assessment, remediation, student challenges, and points and digital badges to incentivize and reward engagement and the application of new skills. There is also a class discussion area where students can share and comment on work, reflect on key questions and initiate conversations about news and information. The lessons are aligned with next-generation state standards and 21st-century learning skills.

NLP is offering the platform — which went live yesterday at — through a “freemium” model and by subscription. The “freemium” model gives educators basic access at no cost, allowing them to deliver the lessons in a one-to-many format (using an LCD projector, for example). Premium subscribers will be provided with individual student logins to unlock one-to-one delivery features, including self-pacing, saved progress, individual assessments, points, badges and student discussion. Teachers can apply here for NLP mini-grants to allow classrooms in underserved communities to pilot the premium unit at no cost this spring and in the fall. 

The platform has gotten off to a promising start. On the first day of last month’s pilot at Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School in Washington, students described it as “entertaining and engaging” with “cool examples.” They were asked to list pros and cons on a sheet of paper. Under pros, Octavian Martin wrote “uses real newscasts” and “real newscasters” and referred to a clip from comedian Dave Chappelle. He listed no cons. 

NLP Profile

Nicco Mele: NLP Is Helping to Prepare for a ‘Radically Altered Media Landscape’

Mele will become director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government on July 1. Photo by Spencer Bakalar

It is only fitting that Nicco Mele leads one of the core lessons in the News Literacy Project’s new checkology™ e-learning platform. After all, this digital visionary has been instrumental in helping us reach this milestone.

Mele was introduced to NLP in 2010 and served for more than four years as our pro bono tech adviser. He helped to envision how technology could move NLP from a hands-on, classroom-based startup to an organization poised to reach national scale online.

In 2014, he connected NLP with Actual Size, the talented Pittsburgh-based creative design studio that became our partner in building the ambitious platform.

“The future is busily arriving,” Mele said. “We've got to be prepared for a radically altered media landscape. Checkology™ is a crucial part of that preparation.”

Mele’s own future arrived on April 25, when he was named director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he had previously served as a lecturer and fellow. He returns to Harvard on July 1.

He is currently a senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. He is also the co-founder of Internet consulting firm Echo & Co. and the author of the 2013 book “The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath.”

In 2003, at age 26, Mele became webmaster for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s Democratic presidential campaign, where his team used the Internet to fuel a grass-roots social media effort that revolutionized the way money is raised in American politics. The following year, Mele oversaw Internet strategy for Barack Obama’s successful U.S. Senate race in Illinois.

From 2009 to 2014, Mele was a member of the faculty at the Kennedy School, teaching graduate-level classes on the Internet and politics. He became senior vice president and deputy publisher of the Los Angeles Times in November 2014; the following year he joined USC, where he also was named the Wallis Annenberg Chair in Journalism at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.

Mele’s lesson on the checkology™ platform — “Personalizing Information: The Role of Algorithms” — teaches students how algorithms help to find, and to hide, information by determining what people see based on their interests and ideological predispositions. He guides students through a series of interactions with a mock search engine and social media platform to simulate how algorithms can create what is known as a “filter bubble.” He concludes the lesson by instructing students on steps they can take to make their personal filter bubbles less restrictive.


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.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to support NLP, you can do so here.

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

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