Frequently Asked Questions
The News Literacy Project is a nonpartisan education nonprofit building a national movement to advance the practice of news literacy throughout American society to create better informed, more engaged and more empowered individuals — and ultimately a stronger democracy.
Our vision is to see news literacy become an integral part of American life, and people of all ages and backgrounds know how to identify credible news and other information and understand the indispensable role a free press has in a democracy, empowering them to play a more equal and active role in the civic life of the country.
News literacy is the ability to determine the credibility of news and other information and to recognize the standards of fact-based journalism to know what to trust, share and act on. News literacy teaches you how to think about the news and information you encounter on a daily basis but not what to think about any particular source. That part is up to you. It helps you develop a healthy skepticism about the quality of information you encounter, without becoming cynical about all news and information.
We provide programs and resources to help educators teach news literacy to students and help adults learn how to determine whether information is credible.
In 2016, we created the Checkology® virtual classroom. This browser-based e-learning platform empowers educators to teach news literacy to middle and high school students. Checkology teaches people how to identify credible information, seek out reliable sources and discern misinformation.
Checkology registrants include educators in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, four U.S. territories and more than 100 other countries.
A version of Checkology is also available for the general public.
In early 2020, given the urgent need for news literacy education and to ensure diverse and inclusive access, we made Checkology free to educators, schools and the public.
We also offer in-person and web-based professional development for educators. Our signature NewsLitCamp® professional development programs bring educators and journalists together to learn from one another.
We have a free weekly newsletter called The Sift® that provides educators with examples of the most recent rumors, hoaxes, and misinformation that can be used as teachable moments in the classroom. We also have a free weekly newsletter for the general public called Get Smart About News.
Our podcast, Is that a fact?, features experts speaking about their experiences with misinformation and its impact on democracy.
Informable®, our free mobile app that tests and builds news literacy skills, is the first learning tool of its kind.
In January 2020 we launched National News Literacy Week in partnership with The E.W. Scripps Company. The annual event during the last week of January raises awareness of news literacy as an essential life skill and provides educators, students and the general public with easy-to-adopt tools and tips for becoming news-literate.
There are several fields of practice focused on teaching students to be critical consumers of media. Media literacy generally refers to a broad discipline that seeks to teach students how to access, analyze, evaluate, create and take action using all forms of communication (including entertainment media). News literacy is focused on helping students understand the role that credible information and a free press play in their lives and in a robust democracy, and seeks to help them determine the credibility of news and other information. Information literacy is aligned with library sciences and seeks to help students find, evaluate, and use information effectively. Digital literacy aims to teach students how to use information and communications technologies in effective, responsible and ethical ways.
Misinformation and the lack of news literacy have created an existential threat to our democracy. As a result, there is an urgent need for news literacy for people of all ages.
A free and independent press and the ability to determine whether information is credible are necessary for the future of a healthy democracy. News literacy teaches about the importance of a free press in our democracy, including how to recognize and demand standards-based journalism, which builds an appreciation for quality journalism. Relying on the standards of fact-based journalism as an aspirational yardstick is the best way to measure the credibility of news and other information.
Misinformation affects everything in our daily lives – from our health care, to our finances, to our personal values. And if we can’t agree on a set of basic facts, then we can’t make well-informed decisions about our lives and our governance.
Consider these findings from an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll in January 2020 and the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, respectively:
- 59% of Americans say it is hard to identify false information — intentionally misleading and inaccurate stories portrayed as truth — on social media.
- 63% of people worldwide agree that the average person can’t tell good journalism from rumors or falsehoods.
A Stanford History Education Group 2019 study found that young people, while digital natives, are just as vulnerable:
- 96% didn’t consider why ties between a climate change website and the fossil fuel industry might lessen the site’s credibility.
- 68% couldn’t tell the difference between news and “sponsored content” (advertising) on a news site’s homepage.
- 52% believed that a grainy video of ballot-stuffing — actually shot in Russia — was “strong evidence” of voter fraud in the U.S.
Foreign adversaries and domestic bad actors have used misinformation against us in the past, and actively engaged in spreading false information to sow confusion and division during the 2020 campaign.
The best way to fight misinformation and minimize its harm is to have a well-informed public that has the ability to discern and reject false information.
We have made assessing our work a priority since we first started working in classrooms, and the results demonstrate that news literacy education works.
During the 2019-2020 school year, after completing Checkology lessons:
- Nearly nine in 10 students (87%) could correctly identify the five freedoms protected by the First Amendment.
- Two-thirds of students could correctly identify the traits of quality journalism.
- The number of students demonstrating an understanding of the watchdog role of the press more than doubled.
- More than four-fifths of students (82%) said in a survey that they intend to increase their civic participation.
- More than nine in 10 teachers (93%) said in a survey that Checkology was better than other e-learning tools they have used in the classroom.
We are a nonpartisan, national education nonprofit. We do not tell people what sources to trust, or distrust; instead, we teach critical thinking skills people can use to make those judgments on their own. Misinformation comes from the political right and left and from foreign and domestic sources, and we share examples of all types.
Members of our board of directors have worked across the political spectrum and have backgrounds in education, journalism, communications, business and nonprofits. National Journalism Advisory Council members represent a diverse and inclusive range of news outlets.
Our funders are also diverse, and our programs and education content are developed and implemented wholly independent of any funder’s influence.
Our organization was founded in 2008 by Alan C. Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, after he visited his daughter’s middle school classroom to discuss what he did as a journalist and why it mattered. He saw the potential value of having journalists share their experience and expertise in America’s classrooms and helped launch the field of news literacy.
NLP began with a small staff and volunteer journalists working in-person with middle and high school educators and students in select cities. We have expanded dramatically since then, primarily through online programs and resources.
Media organizations and journalists are essential partners in our work. More than 30 news organizations across the United States, from local outlets to internationally known print and digital publications, support NLP. They participate in our work in a variety of ways: publicly endorsing our mission, hosting or helping to lead our NewsLitCamp sessions for educators, or donating services or resources. Individual journalists share their expertise through speaking engagements, as the hosts of lessons in our Checkology virtual classroom, and by joining dozens of fellow journalists as volunteers in our Newsroom to Classroom program.
We partner with a variety of organizations that share our values, have missions aligned with ours and can help us reach a wider audience. We are also partnering with numerous school districts (ranging from New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, to smaller districts in South Carolina, Missouri and Indiana and elsewhere). Other past and current partners include:
- The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
- The E.W. Scripps Company
- SAS data management
- Older Adults Technology Services
- National Writing Project
- Metcalf Institute
- Microsoft Flipgrid
An essential part of being news-literate is understanding and appreciating the First Amendment and the role of a free press in a democracy. Censorship as a means of combating misinformation could infringe on these constitutional rights. Additionally, it’s been shown that most governments that have adopted censorship policies to protect the public from misinformation end up using these policies to protect themselves and target critics.