Social Media

October 2016


President's Message

Dear NLP friends and supporters,

Many of you no doubt share my profound concern about the state of our political discourse as the seemingly never-ending presidential campaign careens into the mud-filled homestretch.

It is alarmingly clear that the American public can no longer agree on well-established facts, conspiracy theories can take hold like quicksand and truth is under assault around the clock. Partisans on both sides view news through prisms of red and blue, and trust in the news media has plummeted to historic lows.

It is against this backdrop that the News Literacy Project represents a beacon of hope. This newsletter shares some of the basis for such optimism.

Spotlight focuses on our checkology™ virtual classroom, which quickly shot out of the starting gate last May and is being embraced by educators and students nationwide. The platform is already being used by hundreds of teachers and thousands of students in 34 states. Our video provides a quick peek; we encourage you to check it out.

NLP News reflects the growing financial support the virtual classroom is attracting. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded NLP a $225,000 grant to extend the platform to at least five Knight cities (communities where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers). Three previous funders and one new backer have also given NLP generous financial and in-kind support.

Our Profile describes how news literacy lessons helped transform Christian Armstrong from a disengaged Chicago teenager who paid no attention to the news to a newly empowered young man who reads the Chicago Tribune daily and tweets with one of the paper’s columnists. Christian’s story represents, in microcosm, the challenge and the opportunity for NLP.

Finally, our Calendar item promotes “Satire Summit 2016: Beyond Parody?” — an Oct. 14 event that will showcase the prominent role of political satire in a presidential race that has provoked nearly as much laughter as serious discussion.

I expect that, for many of you, Election Day can’t come too soon. The same can be said for a news-literate America. We are grateful for your interest and support that help us keep this flame aglow.

Warm regards,


Alan C. Miller










NLP’s checkology™ virtual classroom pilot is in full swing, and it's proving to be a success. How do we know? Students tell us! Listen to what they're saying about their experience.

If you're a teacher, apply for a grant to pilot it in your classroom; if you know educators who may be interested, please share this link with them. 


NLP Calendar

Satire Summit 2016: Beyond Parody? 
Friday, Oct. 14, 7:30-9 p.m.

Join the News Literacy Project and a panel of prominent journalists and entertainers in New York City for “Satire Summit 2016: Beyond Parody?” at The New School’s Tishman Auditorium, 63 Fifth Ave.

Moderated by Brian Stelter, the host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” the panel — Peter Sagal, host of the NPR quiz show “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”; Alexandra Petri, author of The Washington Post’s ComPost blog and a weekly political satire column; Ashley Nicole Black, writer and correspondent for TBS’s  “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee”; and Chad Nackers, the head writer for The Onion — will explore the growing role of political humor in calling out hypocrisy, mendacity and venality in our nation's public life and in holding the powerful, including the news media, accountable.

Tickets are $250 for VIPs (which includes a reception and preferred seating), $75 for general admission and $15 for students and people over 62. Follow the event at #satiresummit16.


NLP News

Significant New Financial Support from the Knight Foundation and Other Funders

Former WNYC Radio Rookie reporter Danielle Motindabeka shows a student at Cristo Rey New York High School how to use an audio recorder for radio interviews. NLP is partnering with WNYC on “Satire Summit 2016: Beyond Parody?” Photo by Meredith Whitefield 

The News Literacy Project has received a significant grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as well as generous funding from four other sources that will increase our ability to reach many more teachers and students nationwide with our innovative educational programs.

Knight Foundation’s $225,000 grant will make NLP’s checkology™ virtual classroom available during the 2016-17 school year in five Knight cities: Charlotte, North Carolina; Detroit; Lexington, Kentucky; Miami; and Philadelphia. (“Knight cities” are the 26 communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers.) The foundation was our initial funder when NLP launched in 2008.

NLP has also received a $50,000 grant from the Dow Jones Foundation to assess, improve, market and expand the virtual classroom during the next year. The foundation has been a funder since 2014 and was the largest supporter of the development of the virtual classroom.

HBO and the Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C., have each renewed their support with $15,000 grants. HBO is funding our ongoing partnership with the company’s “Young Media Minds” program to serve 30 middle school students this fall and is supporting our classroom program at two middle schools in New York. HBO has been a funder since 2010.

The Kiwanis Club’s grant will support our classroom program with a high school in Washington, D.C., and bring the premium version of the virtual classroom to at least 300 students in the District. The club has funded NLP since 2014.

In addition, the Taproot Foundation has provided an in-kind grant to assist us with messaging and communications to promote and market both NLP and the virtual classroom. Taproot has assembled a team of five experienced professionals in Chicago who will collectively donate 500 hours of consulting time over the next six months. This support is valued at about $70,000.

We are grateful for all this support to help us further our mission at this crucial time.


NLP in the News

Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan featured NLP in her Sept. 11 column, which called for improved news literacy skills nationwide. Among the experts she interviewed was NLP President Alan Miller, who described news literacy as “an urgent mission.”

In addition, Miller and former “Nightline” correspondent Dave Marash discussed NLP’s work on the Oct. 3 broadcast of “Here & There with Dave Marash” on KSFR-FM, the public radio station in Santa Fe, N.M. You can listen to the podcast here.


NLP Spotlight

NLP’s checkology™ Virtual Classroom: Off to a Fast Start and Filling a Big Need

  Tamerra Griffin, a reporter at BuzzFeed News, leads the “Citizen Watchdogs” lesson in NLP's         checkology™ virtual classroom from BuzzFeed’s newsroom in New York City.

When Judith Dahill, a librarian at the High School of Fashion Industries in New York City, became the first educator trained on the News Literacy Project’s checkology™ virtual classroom last spring, she called it “a dream come true for teachers.”

Since then, dozens of teachers and education leaders nationwide have echoed her praise.

“This platform and the content fill a big need,” said Joseph Kahne, professor of educational policy and politics at the University of California, Riverside, and chair of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics. “The digital age has vastly expanded access to news and perspectives, but it has also made it more challenging for all of us to find and assess the quality of the ‘news’ we are exposed to.”

Eric Nadelstern, the former chief schools officer for the New York City Department of Education and a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, said, “The News Literacy Project's checkology™ virtual classroom is the most effective classroom resource I’m aware of to make certain that our students are media-savvy for the challenges that await them in the 21st century."

The virtual classroom, NLP’s breakthrough resource to reach exponentially more students nationwide, has gotten off to a fast start since its May 2 launch. In the final weeks of the 2015-16 school year and in the first weeks of the current school year, more than 400 teachers in 34 states have registered to use the platform with thousands of middle school and high school students.

Teachers and students have applauded the platform’s engaging collection of news literacy lessons that incorporate real-world examples of news and information, a range of assessment resources, and digital badging and points that reward and incentivize students. They also welcome hearing from both leading journalists from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, NBC News and Bloomberg and experts on the First Amendment and digital media who serve as virtual teachers and video-based guides.

The platform incorporates many of the best practices of experiential online learning and features interactive lessons on such topics as how to discern credible information, assess viral rumors, analyze bias and understand the role of algorithms. Other lessons explore the importance of the First Amendment and the watchdog role of the press as a cornerstone of the nation’s democracy.

After spending 16 months building the platform, NLP gleaned useful lessons from its spring pilot. Insights from the initial group of teachers helped us to improve the student experience, expand the capability of teacher evaluations and give educators more freedom to tailor the experience to their students’ interests and needs.

We also added two core lessons this fall to bring the total to a dozen. In “Citizen Watchdogs: Participating in Democracy,” Tamerra Griffin, a reporter at BuzzFeed, helps students understand how citizens can become engaged by walking them through five case studies of individuals who played watchdog roles. In the second lesson, “Branded Content: A Master of Disguise,” Emily Withrow, an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, guides students through the complex — and controversial — world of content marketing.

NLP aspires to introduce the virtual classroom to more than 100,000 students in all 50 states and the District of Columbia by the end of 2017. Teachers who are interested in learning more about it can do so here


NLP Profile

Christian Armstrong: 'We prioritize news literacy over all else'

Christian Armstrong grew up in the same housing projects where Michelle Obama had lived as a young girl — a notoriously dangerous section of Chicago’s South Side now known as O Block. He never read a newspaper, watched the news on television or listened to it on the radio.

“I figured it had nothing to do with me,” he said.

It was like that for him in his daily life, too. He woke up, he said, to the violence in the city’s streets, to people who were hungry and had hard lives, to the police who were charged with keeping the community safe but didn’t seem to do so. In his mind, there was nothing he could do about it; powerless, he floated through life, surviving rather than living.

Then, last year, Christian enrolled in Leo High School’s semester-long news literacy class, which prepares students in the all-boys Catholic school to work on the school newspaper. Bill Figel, a co-teacher, weaves the News Literacy Project’s original curriculum into the class.

Soon, Christian began reading the Chicago Tribune every day and tackling daily news-related assignments. He began thinking about such things as media coverage of shootings in Chicago, Sean Penn’s Rolling Stone interview with a fugitive Mexican drug lord, and the presidential election. Students in the class were tweeting questions to a Chicago Tribune columnist — and were surprised when he tweeted back.

Christian Armstrong (center), a student at Leo High School in Chicago, discusses how news literacy has changed his life at an NLP VIP breakfast with ESPN's Michael Wilbon (foreground) at the Chicago Sun-Times. Photo by Brittany Brown

Christian was also learning what to believe and what not to believe by looking for bylines, statistics and other verifiable information, and by checking his own biases. He was getting the gist of it, he said. “But it was baby steps for me.”

Even so, Figel said, “he showed a real strength and ability to take a stand. … One could sense enlightenment driving Chris as he realized he was finding himself in his expression of the issues.”

Then one day Figel asked the students to put themselves in a story: What if you were a person in a position of power? What would you want written about you? What if something happened to you, an everyday Joe? What would be said?

Something in that clicked for Christian. News did matter. News was now about, and for, him. “We are the ones who live here,” he said. “We matter as citizens.”

Earlier this year, Christian, now 18, recalled his experience in the news literacy class during an NLP VIP breakfast featuring ESPN’s Michael Wilbon. Tall and thin, like a yardlong bean in a pressed shirt and striped tie, he spoke softly — yet with impressive poise and confidence — about his newfound sense of engagement and empowerment.

“This class has definitely changed my life,” Christian said. “We prioritize news literacy over all else. The newspaper is considered to be our Holy Grail.”



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.