Your brain and misinformation: Why people believe lies and conspiracy theories

Join Peter Adams, NLP’s senior director of research and design, for a discussion that will explore how and why people fall for falsehoods.

 

Our brains do marvelous things, but they also make us vulnerable to falsehoods. Why? What leads people to fall for misinformation? And why do they share it with others? Is it all a battle between our emotions and our rational faculties? Between our ideological allies and adversaries? Or is there more to the story?

Join a panel of experts during the fourth annual National News Literacy Week to untangle the threads in our heads and hearts that can cause us to accept and spread falsehoods, even when we should know better.

Panelists include:

  • Peter Adams, senior vice president of research and design at the News Literacy Project
  • Dr. Sander van der Linden, professor of social psychology in society at the University of Cambridge, director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab and author of Foolproof: Why We Fall for Misinformation and How to Build Immunity

This live, virtual discussion is free and open to the public.

This event is presented in partnership with the American Psychological Association as part of National News Literacy Week.

National News Literacy Week, presented by the News Literacy Project in partnership with the E.W. Scripps Company, is Jan. 23-27, 2023. This annual event underscores the vital role of news literacy in a democracy and aims to inspire news consumers, educators and students to practice news literacy and to strengthen trust in news media by reinforcing the role of credible journalism.

Dr. Seema Yasmin was originally scheduled to participate but was unable to attend.

PitchIt! ALLEGHENY Student Essay Contest 2023

Educators! Give your students the opportunity to write about some of the most important topics of our time and explore how they can help combat misinformation and work to protect the freedom of the press.

PitchIt Allegheny 2023

Feb. 13: Early essay submission period
Feb. 14-March 13: Regular essay submission period
March 14-April 16: Extended entry submission period
April 17: Absolute deadline

Student voice is a catalyst for positive change in schools and communities. For this reason, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU3), in partnership with the News Literacy Project, is hosting a writing contest to empower students in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, to be civically informed and engaged.

TEACHING GOALS

  • Teachers have an authentic and engaging writing assignment that amplifies student voices and explores issues aligned to district curricula, standards and required topics, such as the First Amendment.
  • Students analyze different types of misinformation and show the ability to think critically about what is and is not verifiable information.
  • Students apply their news and media literacy skills to solve the misinformation problem.
  • This project challenges students to develop their 21st century civics and media literacy skills (see our Google Drive documents, academic contexts and connections).
  • Finalists virtually receive real-time feedback from journalists in the field who report on these issues every day.

AWARDS: For each grade band, 6-8 and 9-12

Grand prize: $100 gift cards (for teacher and student winner)

First place
$75 gift card (teacher and student)

Second place
$50 gift card (teacher and student)

Third place
$25 gift card (teacher and student)

OVERVIEW

Participating teachers may choose to assign the competition curriculum for individual classes or hold a schoolwide event. Each participating school may submit up to five entries per grade.

Educators are provided with free resources, as well as planning and organizational support for instructional purposes in the PitchIt! Student Essay Contest folder on NLP’s Google Drive.

For this project, middle and high school students will write a 500- to 1,000-word essay in response to one of the news literacy writing prompts, using a news article as inspiration. Submitted essays will be judged by NLP ambassadors. Selected first- through third-place essay contest finalists (three from middle school and three from high school) will earn the opportunity to compete at the PitchIt! Grand Prize Event, where they will receive real-time feedback from journalists.

Finalists will participate in the PitchIt! Allegheny Grand Prize event on Zoom at the end of May, during which they will share their essays and receive feedback from the journalists. The grand prize winners will be chosen at this time.

ELIGIBILITY

This contest is open to middle and high school students in Allegheny County, participating with the support from a teacher. Schools are encouraged to conduct their own internal essay competition to coordinate, and teachers submit their top five essays per grade (6-8 and 9-12). Winners of the essay component must be able to attend the PitchIt! Grand Prize Event via Zoom in May (exact date and time TBD).

LEARNING TASK AND CHOOSING THE ESSAY TOPIC

News literacy is the ability to determine the credibility of news and other content to identify different types of information and to use the standards of fact-based journalism to determine what to trust, share and act on. Being news literate also means recognizing the critical role of the First Amendment and a free press in a democracy and interacting with news and information in ways that promote engaged participation in civic life.

Objective
Students will be able to develop critical thinking and news literacy skills to find reliable information to make decisions, take action and responsibly share news through social media.

Task
Students compose an essay in response to one of the news literacy writing prompts below, discussing how it relates to a local, national or international news article of their choice. They should form a thesis based on their chosen prompt and aim to convince their audience that the thesis is accurate and valid.

Summative Assessment
Students will be evaluated using the PitchIt! rubric found among the PitchIt! Student Essay Contest documents in Google Drive. Teachers should provide students with a written copy of the rubric and relevant supporting materials.

PROCESS

Step 1. Teacher introduces the writing assignment to their class, the rubric* and the process by which the top essays will advance. News literacy topics are explored with students as they relate to the curriculum. Teachers can explore the free educator resources on NewsLitNation® or the Checkology® virtual classroom on topics like the First Amendment.

Step 2. Students work with their teacher to select a news article/topic of their choice and to select one of the prompts below to follow in writing the essay. Encourage students to use the student planning document* as an outline before submitting a final draft.

Step 3. Teachers select up to five student essay finalists per grade, per school, and submit them to Deborah Domingues-Murphy, domingues-murphy@cityhigh.org.

Step 4. NLP’s educator panel selects six essays (three from middle school and three from high school) to advance to the Grand Prize round. 

Step 5. Panel notifies the teacher at the end of April. The selected students then begin creating a visual presentation of their essay (PowerPoint or Google Slides), to compete in the final phase of the contest.

Step 6. Essay finalists make their presentation (the “pitch”) to a panel of journalists and state legislators during the PitchIt! Grand Prize Event. Panelists choose the first-, second- and third-place champion titles for middle school competitors and high school competitors, who will be awarded during the event.

*Click here for the Google Drive folder with PitchIt! educator resources.

PROMPTS

  • The First Amendment has five freedoms, and in many ways, they are dependent on one another. Explain how other freedoms of the First Amendment are required to protect the freedom of the press.
  • What steps should someone take to fact-check false statements by a well-known figure and what problems might arise as a result (either from the false statements or from the fact checking)?
  • People have responsibilities — things that they should do but are not required to by law. Why would providing reliable information be a responsibility?
  • Imagine you heard a rumor about a public figure, but you’re not sure if it is true or not. What are the potential consequences if you share it online?

CRITERIA

  • Essays must be the original, unpublished work of one student.
  • Essays must be 500-1,000 words, clearly addressing one of the prompts.
  • Essays must be typed in 12-point, Times New Roman, double-spaced with 1-inch margins and numbered pages
  • All essays and presentations must have a title.
  • Students must include at least three credible sources to support their thesis.
  • Essays must use MLA formatting, complete with in-text citations and a Works Cited page (not included in the word count). See Purdue Owl MLA Guide.
  • Organization: Students must include an introduction with a thesis statement, multiple body paragraphs and a conclusion. See Purdue Owl Argumentative Essays.
  • Essays must be proofread and should follow the rules for standard English (grammar, punctuation, mechanics) in writing. See Purdue Owl Grammar.
  • Plagiarism: Any submission that is in part or wholly plagiarized will be disqualified from the PitchIt! competition. See Purdue Owl Plagiarism.
  • A cover page MUST be included with the following information: Title of essay, student name, grade level, student’s complete mailing address, student’s email address, school’s name, principal’s name, teacher’s name, and best phone number and email address for the teacher.
  • Only five essays from each grade may be submitted per school.
  • Finalists must be able to virtually participate in the PitchIt! Grand Prize event at the end of May (TBD).

STUDENT ESSAY TIPS

  • Essays must have a recognizable beginning (opening or introduction), middle and end (closing or conclusion).
  • Hook the reader with a strong opener. Readers will use the first few sentences to decide whether they will read the whole essay.
  • Keep your paragraphs short. Popular essays tend to average three sentences per paragraph.
  • Submit thoroughly thought-out, tightly focused essays. Originality is also important.
  • In the conclusion, include a call to action. Encourage readers to take some positive steps. For instance, if you’ve given them a list of tips, prompt them to put some of the tips into practice.

Contest Deadline: April 17, 2023.

While not required, we recommend schools conduct their own internal essay contest to establish the top essays for submission. Schools/teachers should submit their top five winning essays per grade with cover letter via email to: Deborah Domingues-Murphy, news literacy ambassador, domingues-murphy@cityhigh.org.

FAQs:

What does “teacher support” mean? Successful writers are made through direct instruction. Teachers are encouraged to support students in both content and the writing process. The teacher’s name and contact information must also be indicated in the cover letter as the primary point of contact regarding the entry.

How are the essays judged? Essays will be reviewed by news literacy ambassadors using the PitchIt! rubric. Successful essays are about a local, national or international story that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop the spread of misinformation. For example, consider the impact a story had, and whether false claims about it could be debunked using reputable and verifiable sources of information.

How is the “pitch” judged? The first-, second- and third-place essay winners advance to the Grand Prize Event phase of the contest. To prepare, they must create a visual presentation based on their essay theme (PowerPoint or Google Slides). During the event they will each have three minutes to “pitch” their essay idea to a panel of journalists and will receive real-time feedback from the panel. Student presentations will be judged for creativity, delivery, impact and accuracy during the event (end of May).

What document formats are accepted? Please submit the essay as a Google doc, PDF or a Word document.

How are the finalists announced? Email notification will be sent to the teacher by the end of April.

I am not in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Can I still participate? Sorry, not at this time. This year, the PitchIt! contest is open to all Allegheny County students in middle and high school.

I have more questions! Do you have contacts? Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Kim Bowman, senior associate of user success, kbowman@newslit.org. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, director of NewsLitNation, at network@newslit.org, and questions about entries can be directed to our Pittsburgh News Literacy ambassador, Deborah Domingues-Murphy, at domingues-murphy@cityhigh.org.

“I want my students to want to be involved in their community, hold our elected officials accountable. To do that, they need to know what is happening and that requires them to be smart consumers of news information. I also want them to have a voice and to empower them to be confident in engaging with the adults in their community and be able to challenge them on what they say and do. As Dan Rather said, “No one has a monopoly on the truth, but the whole premise of our democracy is that truth and justice must win out.”  —Deborah Domingues-Murphy

Trust issues: How Chicago news outlets build credibility in their communities

In this moderated discussion, Chicago journalists explain how to earn trust by involving audiences in the editorial process.

 

McCormick Foundation Center Forum, Northwestern Medill, 1870 Campus Dr., Evanston, IL 60208

Chicago has produced some of the nation’s most storied journalists and a variety of unique media outlets, making it one of the leading journalism laboratories in the country. During our fourth annual National News Literacy Week, we are exploring why trust in the news media is declining among some Americans and presenting a panel of innovative Chicago journalists to discuss how they are building trust in their work. These journalists are involving their audiences in their editorial processes, hosting listening sessions, rethinking subscription models, prioritizing transparency with sources, and training young journalists and community members. We will hear from journalists with Chicago Public Media, Block Club Chicago and City Bureau and an expert from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications to help us understand how their work is helping to create a more news-literate nation and why it’s important to do so. Join us at 5 p.m. CT Tuesday, Jan. 24 for this free public event at the McCormick Foundation Center Forum on the Northwestern Medill campus in Evanston, Illinois. If you can’t be there in person, please join our livestream on our YouTube channel.

CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez will moderate a panel discussion with:

Michael Spikes, lecturer at Northwestern Medill and director of the Teach for Chicago Journalism Program, will provide an introduction that will help us understand the state of public trust in the news media.

This event is presented in partnership with the Northwestern Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications. Illinois teachers can receive two Professional Development Clock Hours (also known as CPDU credits) by attending this event. If you’re a Chicago-area teacher joining us in person, please see Katie Fernandez at the event to complete your paperwork. Teachers who wish to attend virtually should email katie.fernandez[at]northwestern.edu for instructions to receive PD credits.

National News Literacy Week, presented by the News Literacy Project in partnership with the E.W. Scripps Co., will be held on Jan. 23-27, 2023. This annual event underscores the vital role of news literacy in a democracy and aims to inspire news consumers, educators and students to practice news literacy and to strengthen trust in news media by reinforcing the role of credible journalism.

We regret the error: Public trust and media accountability

A look at how newsroom leaders discuss past mistakes and what they’ve learned to build greater trust with their audiences.

 

National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 20045

A recent Gallup survey found that the public’s confidence in news has fallen to an all-time low. What can news organizations do to regain trust in their work? What lessons have newsroom leaders learned from past mistakes to help their audiences understand the lengths they go through to produce credible and trustworthy news? We’ll explore this in a panel discussion moderated by News Literacy Project President and CEO Charles Salter and featuring top journalists and media experts, including:

This event is presented in partnership with The E.W. Scripps Company as part of National News Literacy Week, Jan. 23-27, 2023. This annual event underscores the vital role of news literacy in a democracy and aims to inspire news consumers, educators and students to practice news literacy and to strengthen trust in news media by reinforcing the role of credible journalism.

Flip event: Celebrate National News Literacy Week with Teens for Press Freedom

The nonprofit Teens for Press Freedom joins the News Literacy Project for this student-led discussion on Microsoft Flip about trust and credibility.

 

This National News Literacy Week, join Microsoft Flip, the News Literacy Project and Teens for Press Freedom for a student-led conversation about the overwhelming amount of information (including misinformation) that we encounter — and how you can know what to trust. You and your students will hear practical tips and advice from young people about how they separate fact from fiction, how they determine credibility and how they decide what to share with friends or base opinions on. Then stick around for a Q&A to see if your students’ news literacy question is selected to be answered live by our experts! Register for the event or submit a question by joining our event Flip group. Register for the this free event or submit a question by joining our event Flip group.

This event is part of National News Literacy Week (Jan. 23-27), presented annually by the News Literacy Project and The E.W. Scripps Company.

It will include a presentation by Sofia Williams and Agatha German, co-directors of Teens for Press Freedom, a national, youth-led organization dedicated to promoting freedom of the press and factual literacy among teens. Williams and German will be joined by Erin Olson, NLP’s senior manager of education partnerships, for the Q&A.

Critical Reading to Identify Credible Evidence: A Conversation with Dr. Jeff Wilhelm

This free webinar for educators, presented by the News Literacy Project on edWeb.net, focuses on critical reading skills and features professor and author Jeff Wilhelm.

How can you engage and motivate students to think critically when navigating today’s complex information landscape? How can you help students develop the skills to evaluate the trustworthiness, credibility and reliability of evidence? How can cross-disciplinary connections help your students in “fighting fake news”?

Join the News Literacy Project in a free edWeb webinar for a conversation around these questions with Dr. Jeff Wilhelm, distinguished professor of English education at Boise State University and literacy teaching expert. Wilhelm’s forthcoming book is Fighting Fake News: Teaching Students to Identify and Interrogate Information Pollution.

Wilhelm will be joined by NLP’s own Brittney Smith, senior manager of education partnerships (East), and Pamela Brunskill, senior manager of education design. Shaelynn Farnsworth, NLP’s senior director of education partnership strategy, will moderate.

The webinar will include a discussion of the need for and benefits of critical reading skills, as well as a look at NLP’s Framework for Teaching News Literacy, developed using the Understanding by Design template by Wiggins and McTighe (2005). Participants will learn about a variety of resources and techniques that they can implement immediately in the classroom. All attendees will have the chance to win a copy of Fighting Fake News.

This webinar is part of National News Literacy Week (Jan. 23-27), an annual event presented by the News Literacy Project and The E.W. Scripps Company.

Webinar | Power in Art: Elevate Student Voice with Editorial Cartooning

In this free webinar from the News Literacy Project and KQED, you’ll learn how to use editorial cartoons in news and media literacy curriculums.

 

Editorial cartooning, a powerful form of opinion journalism, has a long history in the United States, and draws on a rich visual vocabulary to communicate complex ideas in an accessible way.

You’ll discover how to support students as they analyze and create political cartoons to share their perspective about issues. You’ll also explore topics such as trust and credibility as they relate to opinion journalism.

In this hands-on workshop, you will:

This event is part of National News Literacy Week (Jan. 23-27), presented annually by the News Literacy Project and The E.W. Scripps Company.

National NewsLitCamp® hosted by NBCUniversal: Trust and Credibility

Join us on Jan. 27 for NewsLitCamp®: Trust and Credibility, held as part of National News Literacy Week.

Friday, Jan. 27, 2023
9 A.M. – 6 P.M. EST

Registration is now open.

Join us for this immersive conference built exclusively for educators, presented by the News Literacy Project in partnership with the NBCUniversal News Group!

According to the Pew Research Center, teens and adults under 30 are now almost as likely to trust information from social media as they are to trust information from national news outlets. In a complex digital landscape where anyone can be an “expert,” the ability to identify signs of credibility is a vital skill. As partisan divides in media trust widen, knowing how to parse through this information is critical to a functioning democracy. How do we decide who to trust and what to believe?

This special NewsLitCamp is a unique, virtual event designed to help educators teach students to evaluate news and information with a skeptical — not cynical — eye.

Sessions will feature top journalists from NBC and elsewhere, including Ali VelshiBrandy ZadroznyTom LlamasGuad Venegas and Belén Smole.

Topics will cover:

  • What it means to be “news literate.”
  • Avoiding perceptions of bias when reporting on misinformation.
  • How news organizations ensure fair on-air representation. 
  • How the news media can repair its trust problem in marginalized communities.

In addition, a feature session at 3 p.m. ET includes the debut of “Harm & Distrust,” the latest lesson in NLP’s Checkology®️ e-learning platform. Journalists Wes Lowery and Natalie Moore, as well as NLP’s Peter Adams and EduColor’s Julia Torres, will discuss why communities of color have misgivings about mainstream news, and the progress and setbacks of today’s journalists and their coverage.

The first session starts at 9 a.m. ET with additional sessions continuing throughout the day. All sessions will be recorded and made available to everyone who registers.

What is NewsLitCamp?

NewsLitCamp is an immersive, free professional learning experience primarily for middle and high school educators. It features topical sessions led by journalists and news literacy experts, designed to develop expertise in news literacy education, share specialized teaching resources and provide a behind-the-scenes view of the news reporting process.

What can I expect?

Educators who join NewsLitCamp: Trust and Credibility will leave the day with new ideas, skills and resources to help students navigate today’s complex and challenging information landscape. They will be equipped to demystify what it means to evaluate news and information for trustworthiness and credibility.

Whether you’re a teacher, a librarian or an education professional looking to build upon your news literacy skills, we’d love for you to join. Register now.

Questions? Email us at newslitcamp@newslit.org.

PitchIt! New York Student Essay Contest

New York State educators! Enter your students in our essay contest for a chance to win a gift card worth up to $200.

Deadlines:

Nov. 28-Feb. 13: Early essay submission period

Feb. 14-March 13: Regular essay submission period

March 14-April 16: Extended entry submission period

April 17: Absolute deadline, 9 p.m. EST.

Student voice is a catalyst for positive change in schools and communities. For this reason, the News Literacy Project is hosting a writing contest to empower New York students to be civically informed and engaged.

The PitchIt! New York student essay contest is an opportunity for students to write about some of the most important topics of our time and explore how they can help combat misinformation or work to protect freedom of the press. Essay finalists receive detailed feedback from a panel of journalists, and the winners receive prizes!

TEACHING AND LEARNING GOALS

  • Teachers have an authentic and engaging writing assignment that amplifies student voices and explores issues aligned to district curricula, standards and required topics, such as the First Amendment.
  • Students analyze different types of misinformation and show the ability to think critically about what is and is not verifiable information.
  • Students apply their news and media literacy skills to solve the misinformation problem.
  • Finalists receive real-time feedback from journalists in the field who report on these issues every day.

AWARDS: The below are given to students for each grade band in 6-8 and 9-12.

Grand prize: $200 gift card

First place essay

$150 gift card

Second place essay

$100 gift card

Third place essay

$50 gift card

**New York State finalists will participate in the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event on Zoom at the end of May 2023, where they will create a presentation on their essay topic (the “pitch”) and receive feedback from working journalists. The Grand Prize winners will be chosen at this time.

ELIGIBILITY

This contest is open to middle and high school students in New York State who participate with the support from a teacher and/or school. Participating teachers may choose to adapt the competition curriculum for individual classes or hold a schoolwide event. Each participating school may submit up to five entries per grade band (6-12).

LEARNING TASK AND CHOOSING THE ESSAY TOPIC

News literacy is the ability to determine the credibility of news and other content. Students will write an essay about a local, national or international event of their choice that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop misinformation from being spread about it, using one of the prompts listed below.

PROCESS

Step 1. Teacher introduces the writing assignment to their class, the rubric* and the process by which the top essays will advance. News literacy topics are explored with students as they relate to the curriculum. Teachers can explore the free educator resources on NewsLitNation® or the Checkology® virtual classroom on topics like the First Amendment. See resources from the New York Public Library, which includes access to The New York Times, or any other available news sources.

Step 2. Students work with their teacher to select a news article/topic of their choice and to select one of the prompts below to follow in writing the essay. Share a copy of the student essay planning document* as an outline and encourage them to review before submitting a final draft.

Step 3. Teachers select up to five student essays per grade, per school, and submit.

Step 4. NLP’s educator panel selects six essays (three per each grade band, 6-8 and 9-12), to advance to the Grand Prize phase.

Step 5. Panel notifies the teacher at the end of April. The selected students then begin creating a visual presentation of their essay (PowerPoint or Google Slides), to compete in the final phase of the contest.

Step 6: Essay finalists make their presentation (the “pitch”) to a panel of journalists during the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event on Zoom and receive personalized feedback and a certificate. Panelists choose the Grand Prize winners, who are awarded during the event.

*Click here for the Google Drive folder with PitchIt! educator resources.

PROMPTS

  • The First Amendment has five freedoms, and in many ways, they are dependent on one another. Explain how other freedoms of the First Amendment are required to protect the freedom of the press.
  • What steps should someone take to fact-check false statements by a well-known figure and what problems might arise as a result?
  • People have responsibilities — things that they should do but are not required to by law. Why would providing reliable information be a responsibility?
  • Imagine you heard a rumor about a public figure, but you’re not sure if it is true or not. What are the potential consequences if you share it online?

CRITERIA

  • Essays must be the original, unpublished work of one student.
  • Essays must be 500-1,000 words, clearly addressing one of the prompts.
  • Essays must be typed in 12-point, Times New Roman, double-spaced with 1” margins and numbered pages
  • All essays and presentations must have a title.
  • Students must include at least three credible sources to support their thesis.
  • Essays must use MLA formatting, complete with in-text citations and a Works Cited page (not included in the word count). See Purdue Owl MLA Guide.
  • Organization: students must include an introduction with a thesis statement, multiple body paragraphs and a conclusion. See Purdue Owl Argumentative Essays.
  • Essays must be proofread and should follow the rules for standard English (grammar, punctuation, mechanics) in writing. See Purdue Owl Grammar.
  • Plagiarism: any submission that is in part or wholly plagiarized will be disqualified from the PitchIt! competition. See Purdue Owl Plagiarism.
  • A cover page MUST be included with the following information: title of essay, student name, grade level, student’s complete mailing address, student’s email address, school’s name, principal’s name, teacher’s name, and best phone number and email address for the teacher.
  • Only five essays from each grade may be submitted per school.
  • Finalists must be able to virtually participate in the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event at the end of May (TBD), 2023.

STUDENT ESSAY TIPS

  • Essays must have a recognizable beginning (opening or introduction), middle and end (closing or conclusion).
  • Hook the reader with a strong opener. Readers will use the first few sentences to decide whether they will read the whole essay.
  • Keep your paragraphs short. Popular essays tend to average three sentences per paragraph.
  • Submit thoroughly thought-out, tightly focused essays. Originality is also important.
  • In the conclusion, include a call to action. Encourage readers to take some positive steps. For instance, if you’ve given them a list of tips, prompt them to put some of the tips into practice.

While not required, we recommend schools conduct their own internal essay contest to establish the top essays for submission. Schools/teachers should submit their top five winning essays per grade with required cover letter via email to: Alesha Smith, NLP’s New York news literacy ambassador, at aleshasmith292@gmail.com

FAQs:

What does “teacher support” mean? Successful writers are made through direct instruction. Teachers are encouraged to support students in both content and the writing process. The teacher’s name and contact information must also be indicated in the cover letter as the primary point of contact regarding the entry.

How are the essays judged? During the first phase of the contest, essays are reviewed by news literacy ambassadors for readability, accuracy and originality, using the PitchIt! Rubric. Successful essays are about a local, national or international story that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop the spread of misinformation. For example, consider the impact a story had, and whether false claims about it could be debunked using reputable and verifiable sources of information.

How is the “pitch” judged?

The first-, second- and third-place essay winners advance to the Grand Prize event phase of the contest. To prepare, they must create a visual presentation based on their essay theme (PowerPoint or Google Slides). They will each have three minutes to “pitch” their essay idea to the journalists and will receive real-time feedback from the panel. Students’ presentations will be judged for creativity, delivery, impact and accuracy during the PitchIt! New York Grand Prize event at the end of May 2023.

I am not part of the New York City Department of Education. Can I still participate? Absolutely! The PitchIt! contest is open to all students in the State of New York.

What document formats are accepted? The following formats are accepted: Microsoft Word, PDF, Google doc.

How are the finalists announced? An email notification will be sent to the teacher by late April.

I have more questions! Do you have contacts? Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Kim Bowman, senior associate of user success, kbowman@newslit.org, or you can submit a request via the NLP Education Help Center. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, director of NewsLitNation, at network@newslit.org, and questions about entries can be directed to our New York news literacy ambassador, Alesha Smith, Aleshasmith292@gmail.com.

“I once read that the belief in misinformation can result in adverse physical and psychological consequences. Our learning goals for this contest are for students to learn how to hone their skills in identifying, researching, analyzing and synthesizing information from credible sources that can be verified; this is an essential trait of news literacy. Guiding students to be successful in news literacy equips our scholars with the ability to analyze any issue through a more critical lens, which encourages higher-level thinking in their current roles as students and beyond. This expertise will be impactful in their daily academic and practical lives. For the stated reasons, we are hopeful that teachers and students from across the district and state will participate in this unique opportunity.”

—Alesha Smith, ELA lead teacher-coach/ social studies teacher, NYC DOE

“Participating in PitchIt! NYC was a great experience for me! I enjoyed the combination of essay writing and the oral pitching components in the competition. I am very grateful that I was given the opportunity to participate in the contest and compete as a finalist—I would definitely recommend this contest to my fellow students!”

-Patricia, winning essay student

PitchIt! Colorado Student Essay Contest

Educators! Give your students the opportunity to write about some of the most important topics of our time and explore how they can help combat misinformation and work to protect the freedom of the press.

PitchIt Colorado

Deadlines:

Nov. 28-Feb. 13: Early essay submission period

Feb. 14-March 13: Regular essay submission period

March 14-April 16: Extended entry submission period

April 17: Absolute deadline

Student voice is a catalyst for positive change in schools and communities. For this reason, the Colorado Language Arts Society and The Colorado Sun, in partnership with the News Literacy Project, are hosting a writing contest to empower Colorado students to be civically informed and engaged.

TEACHING GOALS

  • Teachers have an authentic and engaging writing assignment that amplifies student voices and explores issues aligned to district curricula, standards and required topics, such as the First Amendment.
  • Students analyze different types of misinformation and show the ability to think critically about what is and is not verifiable information.
  • Students apply their news and media literacy skills to solve the misinformation problem.
  • This project challenges students to develop their 21st century civics and media literacy skills as outlined in the Colorado Department of Education’s Academic Standards resource (see our Google Drive documents for the Colorado English and Social Studies academic contexts and connections).

AWARDS

The PitchIt! Colorado State Finals Event will be a hybrid (in person and Zoom) format. Students will present live for the chance at claiming the title PitchIt! Colorado State News Literacy Champion. An awards ceremony will be held and first-, second- and third-place trophies will be provided for both middle school and high school competitors, along with a school banner for display.

OVERVIEW

Participating teachers may choose to adapt the competition curriculum for individual classes or hold a schoolwide event. Each participating school may submit up to five entries per grade band.

Educators are provided with free resources, planning and organizational support for instructional purposes in the PitchIt! Student Essay Contest folder on NLP’s Google Drive.

For this project, middle and high school students will write a 500- to 1,000-word essay in response to one of the news literacy writing prompts. Submitted essays will be judged by NLP ambassadors. Selected first- through third-place essay contest finalists (three from middle school and three from high school) will earn the opportunity to compete at the PitchIt! Colorado State Finals Event, where they will receive real-time feedback from journalists.

At state finals, each student will “pitch” their essay (via their slide presentation) to a select panel of professional journalists and state legislators. The winner of the PitchIt! Colorado State Finals will earn the title of PitchIt! Colorado State Champion.

ELIGIBILITY

This contest is open to middle and high school students in Colorado who participate with the support from a teacher and/or school. Participating teachers may choose to adapt the competition curriculum for individual classes or hold a schoolwide event. Each participating school may submit up to five entries per grade band (6-12).

Winners of the essay component must be able to attend the PitchIt! Colorado State Finals event either in person or virtually. The event will take place in the Denver Metro area in May of 2023 (location, date and time TBD).

LEARNING TASK AND CHOOSING THE ESSAY TOPIC

News literacy is the ability to determine the credibility of news and other content to identify different types of information and to use the standards of fact-based journalism to determine what to trust, share and act on. Being news literate also means recognizing the critical role of the First Amendment and a free press in a democracy and interacting with news and information in ways that promote engaged participation in civic life.

Objective

Students will be able to develop critical thinking and news literacy skills to find reliable information to make decisions, take action and responsibly share news through social media.

Task

Students compose an essay in response to one of the news literacy writing prompts below, discussing how it relates to a local, national or international news article of their choice. They should form a thesis based on their chosen prompt and aim to convince their audience that the thesis is accurate and valid.

Audience

Educators, professional journalists, and state legislators.

Summative Assessment

Students will be evaluated using the PitchIt! Rubric found among the PitchIt! Student Essay Contest documents in Google Drive. Teachers should provide students with a written copy of the rubric and relevant supporting materials.

PROCESS

Step 1. Teacher introduces the writing assignment to their class, the rubric* and the process by which the top essays will advance. News literacy topics are explored with students as they relate to the curriculum. Teachers can explore the free educator resources on NewsLitNation® or the Checkology® virtual classroom on topics like the First Amendment.

Step 2. Students work with their teacher to select a news article/topic of their choice and to select one of the prompts below to follow in writing the essay. Encourage students to use the essay planning document* as an outline before submitting a final draft.

Step 3. Teachers select up to five student essay finalists per grade, per school, and submit them to amanda_escheman@dpsk12.net.

Step 4. NLP’s educator panel selects six essays (three from middle school and three from high school) to advance to the Colorado State Finals.

Step 5: Panel notifies the teacher at the end of April. The selected students then begin creating a visual presentation of their essay (PowerPoint or Google Slides), to compete in the final phase of the contest.

Step 6: Essay finalists make their presentation (the “pitch”) to a panel of journalists and state legislators during the PitchIt! Colorado State Finals Event. Panelists choose the first-, second- and third-place state champion titles for middle school competitors and high school competitors, who will be awarded during the event.

*Click here for the Google Drive folder with PitchIt! educator resources.

PROMPTS

Prompt #1: Explain how the First Amendment protects freedom of the press. Use a recent local, national or international news story to illustrate the importance of freedom of the press and how other freedoms are required to protect it.

Prompt #2: What steps should someone take to fact-check statements by a public figure? Consider a recent event in the news to analyze the ways in which the press can hold public figures accountable for what they say and share publicly.

Prompt #3: People have civic responsibilities, things they should do but are not required by law. Explain which news literacy skills are essential to responsible civic participation by example of a recent event in the news.

Prompt #4: Social media platforms are under increased public pressure to fact-check online content generated and shared by users. Which news literacy standards should social media platforms adopt to evaluate fact from fiction? Support your answer with real-world examples in the media.

Prompt #5: What is the role of the media in our society, and how can we become responsible consumers and producers of news and information in the digital age? Support your answer with real-world examples in the news.

Prompt #6: How do confirmation bias, stereotyping and other cognitive biases impact how we interpret events, news and information? What are potential consequences of not verifying the accuracy of such information? Analyze a current news event with these multiple issues in mind for your essay.

CRITERIA

  • Essays must be the original, unpublished work of one student.
  • Essays must be 500-1,000 words, clearly addressing one of the prompts.
  • Essays must be typed in 12-point, Times New Roman, double-spaced with 1” margins and numbered pages
  • All essays must have a title.
  • Students must include at least three credible sources to support their thesis.
  • Essays must use MLA formatting, complete with in-text citations and a Works Cited page (not included in the word count). See Purdue Owl MLA Guide.
  • Organization: students must include an introduction with a thesis statement, multiple body paragraphs and a conclusion. See Purdue Owl Argumentative Essays.
  • Essays must be proofread and should follow the rules for standard English (grammar, punctuation, mechanics) in writing. See Purdue Owl Grammar.
  • Plagiarism: any submission that is in part or wholly plagiarized will be disqualified from the PitchIt! competition. See Purdue Owl Plagiarism.
  • A cover page MUST be included with the following information: title of essay, student name, grade level, student’s complete mailing address, student’s email address, school’s name, principal’s name, teacher’s name, and best phone number and email address for the teacher.
  • Only five essays from each grade may be submitted per school.

Contest Deadline: April 17, 2023, 11:59 p.m. MT.

Schools/teachers should submit their top five winning essays per grade band with cover letter via email to the Colorado News Literacy Ambassador: amanda_escheman@dpsk12.net

FAQ:

What does “teacher support” mean? Successful writers are made through direct instruction. Teachers are encouraged to support students in both content and the writing process. The teacher’s name and contact information must also be indicated in the cover letter as the primary point of contact regarding the entry.

How are the essays judged? Essays will be reviewed by news literacy ambassadors using the PitchIt! rubric. Successful essays are about a local, national or international story that would have benefited from news literacy skills being applied to stop the spread of misinformation. For example, consider the impact a story had, and whether false claims about it could be debunked using reputable and verifiable sources of information.

How is the “pitch” judged?

The first-, second- and third-place essay winners advance to the PitchIt! Colorado State Finals phase of the contest. To prepare, they must create a visual presentation based on their essay theme (PowerPoint or Google Slides). During the event they will each have three minutes to “pitch” their essay idea to a panel of journalists and state legislators, and will receive real-time feedback from the panel. Student presentations will be judged for creativity, delivery, impact and accuracy during the event at the end of May 2023.

Who can participate? The PitchIt! contest is open to all Colorado students in middle and high school.

What document formats are accepted? Please submit the essay as a Google doc or a Word document.

How are the finalists announced? Email notification will be sent to the teacher by the end of April.

I live too far from Denver to attend the State Finals event in person. May I still participate? Yes! We plan to offer a way to participate via Zoom, so you can still attend and your student can still present their pitch to our panel of journalists.

I have more questions! Do you have contacts? Questions about NLP resources can be directed to Kim Bowman, senior associate of user success, kbowman@newslit.org. Questions about rules can be directed to Miriam Romais, director of NewsLitNation, network@newslit.org, and questions about entries can be directed to our Colorado news literacy ambassador, Amanda Escheman, at amanda_escheman@dpsk12.net.

“I see no greater threat to democracy than media illiteracy. The democratic process can only thrive when thoughtful citizens interrogate the media that informs them.”
––Amanda Escheman, Colorado News Literacy Ambassador

Calling all educators in the Philadelphia area and those attending the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference! Please join us on Friday, Dec. 2 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET for NewsLitCamp® Philadelphia, a day of immersive, in-person professional learning built exclusively for educators and focusing on key news literacy concepts. The event will be held at WHYY’s Philadelphia newsroom.

Registration is now open. To register, click here.

Issues accessing this registration page? Email us at newslitcamp@newslit.org.

During this NewsLitCamp, co-hosted by WHYY and The Philadelphia Inquirer, you can expect to learn directly from journalists who will share their insider expertise on how they do their work and the behind-the-scenes workings of a modern newsroom.

As you may know, NewsLitCamp is a unique opportunity for teachers, librarians and other educators across all subjects to connect directly with journalists and hone their ability to teach students how to sort fact from fiction.

Listen to what educators and journalists who have participated in NewsLitCamp have to say in this engaging and brief video.

All Philadelphia-area educators, including librarians and library media specialists, as well as educators in town for the NCSS conference, are encouraged to register for this special event.

We hope you can join us for this full day of news literacy programming!

This event is generously sponsored by the Knight Foundation.

Questions? Please reach out at newslitcamp@newslit.org.

Public webinar: Productive conversations without confrontation

Trying to discuss current events with someone who has been manipulated by misinformation, propaganda, or even conspiracy theories can be maddening, deeply emotional, and seemingly futile. Before you react angrily or throw your hands up in frustration, take a step back.

Join us at 5 p.m. ET Thursday, Nov. 17 – one week before Thanksgiving – for a discussion about how to have a productive, civil conversation and retain your relationships. The event is free and open to everyone.

In this webinar, hosted by the News Literacy Project in partnership with the National Institute for Civil Discourse and Senior Planet from AARP, we’ll talk about how and why misinformation manipulates emotions and exploits biases to draw people deeper into false belief. Presenters from NLP and NICD will provide strategies for having a civil conversation about current events and resources to help you debunk these falsehoods in a productive way.

Register now.