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The News Literacy Project Concludes a Banner Year in 2011

The News Literacy Project (NLP) made dramatic progress in 2012 in its mission to create a new generation of smarter and more engaged consumers and creators of credible news and information.

NLP is now working with 35 teachers in 21 middle schools and high schools in New York City, Chicago, Washington and Bethesda, Md., to reach well over 2,000 students this school year. This included expansion into the District of Columbia in September. Six schools in New York, four in Chicago, two in Washington and one in Bethesda joined the project in 2011.

Twenty-one news organizations and nearly 200 seasoned journalists are enrolled with NLP as participants. The Wall Street Journal, Univision, the Chicago Sun-Times and WTOP radio in Washington joined the ranks this past year. The Online News Association endorsed NLP as well.

NLP also adopted exciting innovations to its model in the past year.

The project is working with the American Library Association to produce a series of news media watchdog workshops for high school students focused on the 2012 presidential election. The first one was held on Nov. 19 in Des Moines, Iowa – the state that kicks off the nominating contest with Republican caucuses in early January. Other sessions are planned for Chicago, Baltimore and Des Moines in the summer of 2012.

In Chicago, the project worked with the Chicago Public Library, the After School Matters program and the Parks District to produce workshops and conduct news literacy training. In Washington, it helped The Washington Post relaunch its Young Journalists Development Program with two summer workshops for area high school students.

In New York and Chicago, NLP increasingly took students to the journalists in their newsrooms as well as bringing journalists to the students’ classrooms. More than 170 students participating in the project made 10 field trips to newsrooms in the two cities in 2011.

They included visits to “60 Minutes” in New York to meet Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News and executive producer of “60 Minutes,” and correspondent Lesley Stahl; to the NBC News studio to meet with three senior executives and watch a taping of the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” from the studio control room; and to ABC News to watch a production of the weekend edition of “Good Morning America.”

In Chicago, students made two visits to the Chicago Tribune; two visits to the Chicago bureau of the Associated Press for a day of news literacy and journalism workshops; two visits to the South Side bureau of WBEZ, Chicago’s public radio station; and a visit to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The project also continued its practice of holding a series of public events. In Washington, it kicked off its expansion into the District of Columbia with an event at the E.L. Haynes Public Charter School featuring Gwen Ifill of PBS and FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. You can see a short video of the event at

In October, the project held its second annual Fall Forum at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda with an event featuring columnists David Brooks of The New York Times and E.J. Dionne Jr. of The Washington Post and Jessica Yellin of CNN. The three journalists discussed “Demosclerosis: The Challenge of Moving America Forward in a Hyper-Partisan Age” before an audience of 900 adults and students.

On Nov. 1, NLP and Northside College Preparatory High School in Chicago sponsored a symposium on “Covering Religion: How to Balance Facts and Faith in the Search for Truth.” Manya Brachear, a religion reporter for the Chicago Tribune; Odette Yousef, a reporter for WBEZ radio; and Kevin Eckstrom, editor-in-chief of the Religion News Service, were the panelists and Art Norman of NBC 5 served as moderator. About 300 students and adults attended.

The project’s New York advisory committee continued its occasional breakfast series with high-profile journalists. In March, the group’s members met at “60 Minutes” with Jeff Fager and correspondent Scott Pelley. In June, they had breakfast at The New York Times with Mark Halperin of Time magazine. The year’s final session, with “NBC Nightly News” anchor and managing editor Brian Williams and other NBC executives, was held at NBC News in December.

The year also marked a major milestone in NLP’s governance: In May, the project become an independent 501(c)3 after operating for the previous 2½ years with the Poynter Institute for Media Studies as its fiscal agent. NLP’s pro bono law firm, Dickstein Shapiro LLP, was extraordinarily helpful with the process of obtaining approval from the Internal Revenue Service.

Later in the year, Don Wycliff, the former editorial page editor of the Chicago Tribune and now the Distinguished Journalist in Residence at the School of Communication at Loyola University Chicago, joined the board. NLP also added additional members to its engaged advisory committees in New York, Chicago and Washington.

In June, a report by the Federal Communications Commission, “The Information Needs of Communities,’’ touted NLP as stepping into an “educational breach.”

The project continued to receive highly favorable local and national media coverage. In January, the Chicago program was spotlighted in an article in the Chicago Tribune.

In December, “PBS NewsHour” featured an in-depth report that focused on the program in Washington and Bethesda:

The project and its partners are grateful for generous support that NLP has received from foundations, corporations and individuals. Major sponsors in 2011 were the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Qualcomm, the lead sponsor of the project’s expansion into Washington.