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October 2015

President's Message
Dear NLP Friends and Supporters,

Our success starts with those who generously donate their expertise and experience to NLP. It extends to the devoted educational partners who work so closely with us.

In this newsletter, we celebrate some of those who are part of this widening circle of virtue and impact.

From the start, NLP’s board has featured distinguished leaders in the fields of journalism, education and business. The board has played a vital role in establishing our credibility, defining our vision and building the support that has led to our initial success and created such a promising future.

In NLP News, we are extremely pleased to welcome two new board members to help take us to the next level: Rob King, ESPN’s senior vice president for “SportsCenter” and News, and Greg McCaffery, president and CEO of Bloomberg BNA.

NLP’s volunteer journalist fellows are also a distinctive part of our program. Our online directory includes nearly 300 seasoned professionals who have delivered more than 600 lessons, in person and virtually, since 2009. In our Spotlight feature, we recognize their essential contributions.

We have been blessed to work with diverse and dynamic educational partners in each of our major markets. In our Profile, we focus on one such committed collaborator, the Big Shoulders Fund in Chicago.

Finally, we’re making available one of our original classroom lessons, “Democracy’s Watchdog,” to help you understand the kinds of resources we offer to our educators. Please share it with anyone you think might be interested.

Thanks very much to all of you — from board members to journalists, educators and supporters — for helping us provide programs that give young people the tools to become better-informed and more engaged citizens.

All the best,

Alan C. Miller






NLP Core Lesson

We’re sharing one of our core classroom lessons, “Democracy’s Watchdog.” It uses four iconic examples of investigative reporting to demonstrate the watchdog role of journalists in a robust democracy. Photo by Maureen Freeman

NLP in the News

For National News Engagement Day, The New York Times' “The Learning Network” posted a piece for teachers explaining how to tell actual news from fake news. Reporter Katherine Shulten prominently cited an article by Peter Adams, NLP’s senior vice president for educational programs, that explored why students who are skilled digital natives still need news literacy instruction to overcome their digital naïveté.

NLP News
Two new board members, a new Teachable Moment item and new funding

The News Literacy Project is delighted to welcome two distinguished members to its board. Both bring strong journalism and management credentials as well as ties to major news organizations.

Alan Miller, NLP’s president, discusses his Pulitzer Prize-winning series about the Marine Corps’ Harrier jet with students at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md., as part of the first NLP unit sponsored by the John S. Carroll Memorial Fund. Photo by Joni Lucas-Shapiro

Rob King, ESPN’s senior vice president for “SportsCenter” and News, joined the board last month. He is responsible for ESPN’s flagship program and the company’s newsgathering operations. King was named to that position in January 2014, following several years as senior vice president for content, ESPN Digital & Print Media. He joined the network in 2004 after beginning his journalism career at the Commercial-News in Danville, Ill., and holding positions of increasing responsibility at the Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, N.J., and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Greg McCaffery, president and CEO of Bloomberg BNA, joined the board this month. BNA employs more than 2,500 journalists who produce dozens of publications focusing on legal, business, tax, accounting, environmental, health and safety, and human resources news. Greg joined BNA in 1986 and held reporting and editing positions at several of its publications until being promoted to management in 1990. He has held his current position since 2012, following Bloomberg’s acquisition of BNA. Bloomberg is a major partner and supporter of NLP.

In September, Larry Margasak, a retired reporter for the Associated Press, wrote an especially timely Teachable Moment blog item, Trump's Falsehoods Pose Challenge to Press and Public (But Apparently Not to His Supporters). The piece was picked by the Tribune Content Agency and made available to its subscribers throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Finally, we’re pleased to announce two grants:

  • HBO has approved a $15,000 renewal to support our partnership with HBO’s Young Media Minds program and NLP classroom programs at three schools in New York City.
  • The Simmons Foundation awarded us $6,500 in general operating support for our program in Houston. This is NLP’s first grant in Houston following a successful pilot program last spring.

NLP Spotlight
Journalist Fellows: An Extraordinary Commitment

Candace White, a freelance multimedia producer, leads middle school students in George Jackson Academy's newspaper club on a reporting assignment to Video Games New York, a business in the East Village. Photo by Meredith W. Gonçalves

They are network correspondents, authors of best-selling books and winners of journalism’s highest honors. Some are veterans of the classroom; others are newcomers to teaching. All have valuable experience and expertise to share.

They are NLP’s volunteer journalist fellows. Nearly 300 can be found in the project’s online directory; collectively, they have delivered more than 600 lessons in person and virtually since 2009.

Some have visited schools multiple times in New York City, Chicago, the Washington, D.C., area and Houston. Others have participated remotely from such far-flung posts as Cairo and Mexico City. Many have narrated video lessons or connected with students in several cities simultaneously through NLP Virtual Visits from their newsrooms. Some of the most prominent have been featured at public events.

They represent an extraordinary commitment at a time when journalists are stretched like never before — giving NLP a distinctive dose of real-world learning that is deeply appreciated by teachers and students.

“I loved meeting people who are in the field of journalism who are able to teach us about news literacy with their amazing experiences,” wrote Jared Jiang, a student at George Jackson Academy in New York City. “We learned so much about how to read news and how to distinguish between credible information and advertisements or propaganda.”

The journalists play an essential part in giving students the tools to discern and create verified information as well as imparting an appreciation of both the First Amendment and the watchdog role of a free press. Following NLP units, significant numbers of students express increased interest in the news and in becoming engaged citizen journalists and voters.

To recognize our journalists for their outstanding contributions, NLP is establishing the John S. Carroll Journalist Fellow of the Year Award, honoring our former board chair and one of the country’s most esteemed editors, who died in June 2015. The winner or winners will be announced each spring. Contributions to a fund to support the award can be made here.

Journalist fellows say they get as much out of NLP as they give.

“I find the program enormously rewarding,” said Peter Eisler, an NLP mainstay as an investigative reporter at USA Today who recently moved to Thomson Reuters. “I believe in the mission and welcome the opportunity to help kids become more discerning news consumers. I like the give-and-take with the students, I feel good about helping them learn material that I consider important, and I always walk away energized after a teaching visit at one of the schools.”

Stacey Shick, chief copy editor of Bloomberg’s opinion section, Bloomberg View, says that serving as a journalist fellow provides “a renewed sense of why what I do matters. It is fascinating to see how the news shapes the kids' worlds.”

NLP Profile

Big Shoulders Fund Partnership: Students Taking ‘Ownership Over Their Learning and Life’

Students at Leo High School in Chicago do an NLP exercise as part of a class taught by former Sun-Times journalist Bill Figel. Photo by Bill Healy

The videoconferencing system in teacher Rebecca Orr’s news literacy class pixelated images, garbled voices and dropped calls. But when the journalist finally appeared, a hush fell over the classroom.

“Where is she again?” a boy asked over his shoulder.

“Beirut,” Orr said.

“Cool,” a student said under his breath.

The students listened, rapt, for an hour as Wall Street Journal reporter Dana Ballout described how she covered the Syrian refugee crisis and how social media affected the unfolding events. She was more than 6,000 miles and an ocean away, and even when her electricity was briefly cut, nothing stopped her from talking — or the students at Chicago’s DePaul College Prep High School from listening to her.

Ballout’s Virtual Visit to Chicago earlier this month was cool. Orr was able to share it with her class because she is part of a partnership with the News Literacy Project and the Big Shoulders Fund (BSF), an organization that supports Catholic schools in Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods.

Journalist visits such as these — even virtual ones — make news, newsmaking and news-sharing a real and rich experience for students in a way that traditional lessons or articles cannot, Orr said.

“I have seen a lot of kids get so much out of the program,” she said. “The kids learn how to talk about big current events and talk about the news. Our kids are really becoming news-literate, and they’re learning how to communicate about the news with their peers.”

NLP is partnering with BSF under a grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. The collaboration began in 2014.

The grant provides funding for four schools — Leo High School, Josephinum Academy, Our Lady of Tepeyac High School and DePaul — to create news literacy classes and support journalism education. NLP consulted on the design and implementation of the news literacy classes and provided its signature classroom curriculum and rich resources to aid the teachers. Those include journalist-led lessons, both in-person and virtual, and field trips to news organizations. NLP also supplies teachers with supplemental lessons and resources to fit their needs.

Teacher Anne Ross at Josephinum Academy in Chicago helps one of her students, Liliana Martinez, prepare for her final presentation as part of the class’s NLP unit. Photo by Mary Owen

By all measures, the partnership has been a dramatic success. Last year, for example, Tepeyac teacher Jeff Zimmerman worked with Chicago program manager Erika Hobbs on a lesson that challenged his students to act as citizen watchdogs and produce a short audio or video documentary about an issue affecting their communities. The resulting reports explored such concerns as abandoned houses and the negative perception of a suburban public school.

Orr’s students also visited the Chicago Tribune’s newsroom, while Zimmerman’s class took a trip to public radio station WBEZ.

Later this year, Hobbs plans to work on a professional development series with Orr and Zimmerman for other middle schools and high schools in the BSF network that may be interested in incorporating news literacy lessons. Altogether, the network includes 82 schools, with students from kindergarten through 12th grades.

“The News Literacy Project and Big Shoulders Fund have helped us create a fixture in the 10th-grade curriculum here that fills an important need for training in critical thought,” Zimmerman said. “By breaking out of daily routines, discovering the wider world, asking penetrating questions and finding real answers, my students are starting to take control and ownership over their learning and life.”

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 © 2015 The News Literacy Project. All rights reserved.