Bogie Does News Literacy

What do actor Humphrey Bogart and news literacy have in common? Plenty, according to a commentary in America, a Jesuit weekly that looks at political, economic and social issues from a Catholic perspective.

In “Bring Back Bogart,” published in the Nov. 7, 2011, issue, Ray Schroth, S.J., an associate editor of the weekly, cleverly ties the 1952 film “Deadline — U.S.A.” to the News Literacy Project’s mission. One of NLP’s partner schools is the Jesuit-founded Cristo Rey New York High School in East Harlem.

In the film, an immigrant woman brings evidence about her daughter’s murder to the local newspaper and not to the police, prompting the paper’s managing editor (Bogart) to ask why she would do such a thing. She responds, “I no know police. I know The Day.”

Her explanation speaks to a view of the newspaper as a critical medium that “raises literacy, records history, binds the community and makes democracy possible,” Schroth writes.

Today, Schroth acknowledges, social media is said to fill that void, but he wonders whether television, Facebook and Twitter “can carry the load.”

And that, says Schroth, is where the News Literacy Project comes in, with its emphasis on the relationship between the news and democracy.

One might even argue that the project helps sustain an industry endangered not just today, but also in Bogie’s time.

“As Bogart’s character says, ‘The free press is like a free life — always in danger,’” writes Schroth.

Well put, Bogie. Here’s looking at you!