Bloomberg Partners with NLP in New York City and Washington

Bloomberg LP is partnering with the News Literacy Project on two innovative after-school programs with highly regarded middle schools in New York City and Washington this semester.

In both programs, Bloomberg journalists will go into classrooms for presentations that teach students the principles of news literacy and will assist them with multimedia topics on issues that interest them. Both programs, which are funded with grants from Bloomberg, began this month.

In New York City, NLP and Bloomberg will work with students at MS 57/James Weldon Johnson Leadership Academy, a public school serving a large Hispanic student population in East Harlem. The school is in the 93rd percentile of the city’s K-8 public schools. 

"We see this partnership as a unique opportunity to enable our journalists to share their skills with New York City youth to create a more informed citizenship," said Karen Toulon, Bloomberg’s New York bureau chief, who is leading the program in New York. 

In Washington, the partner school is E. L. Haynes Public Charter School, which is widely recognized for outstanding student achievement and impact on education. In 2012, for the second year in a row, the DC Public Charter School Board awarded E.L. Haynes Tier 1 status on its Performance Management Framework based on student progress over time, student achievement, and attendance and re-enrollment rates. In 2011, the CityBridge Foundation awarded E.L. Haynes its first-ever Strong Schools Award for its unwavering focus on student achievement and its broader impact on public education.

Bloomberg is one of the News Literacy Project’s 23 participating news organizations. In addition to encouraging its employees to volunteer as journalist fellows, the company has provided NLP with grants for general support the past two years and joined NLP in co-sponsoring a forum on presidential debates at Georgetown University in October. More than three dozen Bloomberg reporters and editors in New York and Washington have enlisted as NLP journalist fellows.

NLP’s pilot unit with E.L. Haynes, completed in September 2011, was featured in a report on “PBS NewsHour” three months later.

The addition of Bloomberg as a partner will build on the school’s previous experience with NLP and provide a greater in-depth experience for the students, Jennifer Niles, the founder and head of school, said at a kickoff event for the program on Jan. 23.

"We are really excited" about the prospect of working with Bloomberg, she told about three dozen students, parents, school administrators and NLP staff. "It’s a special opportunity."

Cesca Antonelli, Bloomberg’s Washington bureau chief (pictured above), told the students that the news organization welcomed the chance to create a more skeptical and informed public and to "help you think about the news and see how we think about the news."

Fifteen students in the 8th and 9th grades will participate in the 16-week program. They will study basic news literacy concepts with 8th grade literacy teacher Anna Salzberg; Maureen Freeman, the Washington regional coordinator for NLP; and the Bloomberg journalists before embarking on a multimedia project on a topic of their choice.

The students, who were selected for the program through a competitive process, will visit Bloomberg’s Washington bureau twice; on the second visit, they will present their final project. All of the students have been introduced to some basic news literacy concepts; the three 9th-graders participated in NLP’s pilot unit last year.

E. L. Haynes is the first year-round public school in Washington. Its students come from every ward in the city; 51% are black, 35% are Hispanic, 9% are white and 5% are Asian and other ethnicities. Sixty-eight percent of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches; 23% do not speak English as their native language.

The student body at MS 57 in New York is also diverse: 69% are Hispanic, 25% are black, 3% are Asian and 2% are white. Of the school’s almost 800 students, 86% qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

At MS 57, a group of about 20 6th-grade students will work with a team of Bloomberg journalists in an after-school class meeting twice weekly to create a reporting project on a topic of their choice. Students will learn the core concepts of journalism, as well as how to conduct interviews, research and report stories, gather video, photos and audio in the field and publish their content on the Internet.

The students will visit Bloomberg’s New York City headquarters twice and will present their final projects on the second visit. Each student will be paired with a Bloomberg journalist as an online mentor.

"These are much-needed skills," said MS 57 assistant principal Jonathan Lee. "In this day and age, students need to learn to communicate through multimedia. With this program our kids will get to experience a holistic approach to academics—they will start to see how they can use their math, reading and writing skills, how academics translate to daily life."