Newsroom: NLP honors 2020 award recipients

Virginia teacher first educator to be recognized

WASHINGTON (June 22, 2020) — In recognition of their outstanding achievements during the past school year, the News Literacy Project (NLP) today named the recipients of its 2020 educator, journalist and student of the year awards. We recognize these honorees as having distinguished themselves in their commitment to news literacy in their classrooms, in their professions and in their daily lives. We also acknowledge their efforts as leading voices in support of news literacy education.

NLP has honored a journalist each year since 2016 and a student annually since 2017; this is the first time that it is recognizing an educator.

“Bestowing these awards is among the most meaningful things that NLP does each year,” said Alan C. Miller, NLP’s founder and CEO. “They not only recognize exemplary individual achievement and contributions, but also the vital role that scores of educators and journalists play as valued partners, and the transformative impact that, together, we’re having on students.”

Educator of the Year

Virginia educator Patricia Hunt is the recipient of NLP’s inaugural Educator of the Year Award for the dedication and innovation she brings to her teaching of news literacy — an essential life skill for the digital age — and for her wider advocacy of news literacy education.

Hunt, who teaches 12th grade government courses at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., first learned about NLP from a Maryland colleague in 2011, before NLP’s classroom program was active in Virginia. Hunt borrowed the NLP classroom guide from her colleague to use in her courses.

“Patricia has set the gold standard as the first recipient of our educator of the year award,” Miller said. “She became an early adopter of our Checkology® virtual classroom e-learning platform when it was launched in 2016 and has made it an integral part of her government class. She’s also developed engaging activities to enhance her students’ ability to learn and apply news literacy skills, and her passion for improving the well-being of her students is contagious and inspiring. We are so proud to give her this award and spotlight her as a champion for news literacy education.”

Soon after Hunt began using Checkology, NPR visited her classroom and made it the focus of this piece, The Classroom Where Fake News Fails. Hunt has also hosted classroom visits from several other news outlets. These include; ABC; HBO; WRC-TV; NHK, Japan’s public television station, and Czech public television. (Watch an NLP video about Checkology’s impact in her classroom.)

“My goal as an educator is to give students the tools that they need to become lifelong learners. My hope would be for them to continue listening to the news, to continue checking their news feed against other news feeds, to stop and pause before sharing. Checkology is the best tool I’ve found to meet that goal,” Hunt said.

Watch the video of Hunt receiving her award and read about the finalists for the Educator of the Year award on NLP’s website.

John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year

Indira Lakshmanan, senior executive editor at National Geographic and a veteran foreign and national correspondent, is the 2020 recipient of NLP’s John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year Award. Lakshmanan is a frequent TV and radio commentator on journalism and journalistic ethics, served as the first Newmark Chair in Journalism Ethics at the Poynter Institute, and was executive editor at the Pulitzer Center.

“Last year, Indira did a superb job leading the revised Understanding Bias lesson for Checkology,” Miller said. “Her expertise on journalistic ethics and practices proved invaluable to the development of the lesson, during both the video shoot itself and in writing the script.”

In November 2019, at NLP’s request, Lakshmanan led a high-profile session on news literacy at the National Council for the Social Studies conference in Austin, Texas, and interviewed Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron on a keynote panel.

“It has been such an honor to get this award and a privilege to get to work with you and the next generation in teaching them about news literacy and the importance of reliable journalism to a healthy democracy and society,” Lakshmanan said.

Named for one of the most revered newspaper editors of his generation, this award is given annually to journalists who have contributed significantly to NLP and its mission. The honorees, who receive $500 and a glass plaque with an etched photo of Carroll, are selected by a committee of NLP board members and staff. During an acclaimed journalism career spanning four decades, Carroll was the editor of three major U.S. newspapers — the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader, The Baltimore Sun and the Los Angeles Times. He was a founding member of NLP’s board and served as its chair for four years until shortly before his death in 2015.

Watch the video of Lakshmanan receiving her award.

Gwen Ifill Student of the Year

Kristen Locker, a new graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University, is NLP’s 2020 Gwen Ifill Student of the Year. Locker, the first college student to receive the award, nominated by her professor, Lyn Millner, a finalist for NLP’s Educator of the Year Award

“Kristen told us, ‘Checkology helped me navigate where I get my news.’ She says she no longer believes things at face value or relies on a single source and always researches information before sharing it,” NLP’s Miller said. “We have no doubt that this will prove useful to Kristen as she moves on to film school and into her professional life.’’

Locker used Checkology while a student of Millner’s and became a teaching assistant in her news literacy course the following year. In addition, Locker delivered a lecture on verification tools, developed assignments for students and produced a video to promote news literacy to freshmen.

This award commemorates Ifill, the trailblazing journalist — and longtime NLP supporter and board member — who died in 2016. It is presented to female students of color who represent the values Ifill brought to journalism. Ifill was the first Black woman to host a national political talk show on television as moderator of Washington Week, and she was a member (with Judy Woodruff) of the first female co-anchor team of a national news broadcast, on PBS NewsHour.

“After reading more about Gwen Ifill, I saw how much she did and the weight of her work in corresponding, advocating, reporting, writing, all of that,” Locker said. “To see what she’s done in her lifetime, it’s just so inspiring. I want to follow in that legacy.”

Student honorees receive a $250 gift certificate and a glass plaque with an etched photo of Ifill.

“Honoring the legacies of John Carroll and Gwen Ifill — as iconic journalists, exceptional board members and extraordinary individuals — reaffirms our values and who we are as an organization,” Miller said.

Watch the video of Locker receiving her award.

About the News Literacy Project

The News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan national education nonprofit, empowers educators to teach students the skills they need to be smart, active consumers of news and other information and engaged, informed participants in civic life.