Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss showcases The Sift

Washington Post education reporter Valerie Strauss features content from The Sift®,  NLP’s free weekly newsletter for educators, in her blog throughout the school year.

 

 

 

NLP founder Alan Miller on avoiding the looming information dystopia

In a new and widely praised piece in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, News Literacy Project founder Alan Miller explores the many reasons for today’s information crisis and explains what everyone from journalists to educators and news consumers can do about it.

Miller describes how conspiratorial thinking and hoaxes have gone mainstream as trust in institutions has dropped precipitously, traditional media outlets have struggled financially, and social media platforms have become  a gathering place and megaphone for extremists.

He argues that without a shared foundation of facts, “we are on the path not only to an information dystopia, but very possibly to autocracy.”

Still, Miller finds cause for hope and outlines ways to push back against an information dystopia, including regulating social media platforms, doubling down on the tenets of credible journalism, and supporting news literacy education efforts.  The need is urgent, he writes.

“NLP is working to change the culture in ways like the evolution in attitudes about smoking, drunk driving, and littering. The difference is that it took a long time to achieve those societal shifts, and there isn’t much time,” Miller writes. “Democracy barely survived the stress test it underwent after the 2020 presidential election. America may not be so fortunate next time.”

Read the piece here.

‘I want to be part of a society that gets things right’: Los Angeles Times features new push for news literacy

The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday featured the News Literacy Project extensively in a story that explains increasing advocacy efforts to include media literacy instruction in the nation’s classrooms.

The piece profiles NLP’s impactful work in the classroom for almost 15 years and notes the Checkology™ virtual classroom’s impressive growth, with students registered in both liberal-leaning and conservative states.

NLP’s 2021 Gwen Ifill Middle School Student of the Year, Mirudulaa Suginathan Yamini, is quoted saying: “Our society has a value system, and you don’t want to degrade it by spreading misinformation. I want to be part of a society that gets things right.”

The Times also highlights NLP’s expanding mission to reach the public. It notes the urgency of creating a more news-literate electorate “as broad segments of the American populace have been consumed by election denialism, global warming skepticism, and COVID conspiracy theories.”

Says NLP founder Alan C. Miller: “We’ve lost any sense of a common narrative, of a shared reality. We not only can’t agree on what the facts are, we can’t even agree on what a fact is.”

NLP ‘is a model’: Journalist Margaret Sullivan’s new book

In her new book, Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) from an Ink-Stained Life, Margaret Sullivan writes about her career in journalism and notes the pioneering work of the News Literacy Project under the leadership of founder Alan C. Miller.

She describes the impression that Miller made on students in her media ethics class at Duke University when he spoke to them in 2021 and argues that there is a vital need for news literacy programs and resources like those NLP creates for people of all ages.

She writes: “It’s important, too, for news consumers, also known as American citizens, to take responsibility for their own news literacy. I’m not terribly hopeful about this happening on its own, given the trends. I’m worried, too, about what it would mean to legislate it. Trying to get news literacy taught in public schools, given the turmoil over curriculum in recent years, could have unexpected negative consequences. I still think it’s worth pursuing. I might even put Alan Miller in charge of it if I had the power.

“…We need a widespread effort to educate the public — not just schoolchildren but adults, too, about news literacy and about the deadly harm of not knowing the difference between truth and lies. The News Literacy Project, which has expanded to include adults, is a model.”

A widely respected journalist, Sullivan was the media columnist for The Washington Post, leaving the paper in August. Before that, she served as the first woman to hold the position of public editor of The New York Times, acting on behalf of readers regarding the paper’s reporting and writing or lapses in coverage, and she was the first woman to serve as editor of the Buffalo News.

NLP in the news this October: How to navigate elections misinformation, a spotlight on RumorGuard, pink slime everywhere

It’s fall during a busy elections cycle, which means everything tastes like pumpkin spice – with a big dash of misleading elections information and frustrating conversations about politics. NLP experts were quoted in a number of stories in which they not to only explained the big problems facing our electoral system, but also  offered some hope with useful advice and a new effort to teach people news literacy skills.

A headline in Mashable said NLP’s new RumorGuard learning platform could be “the winning tool in those frustrating Facebook fights.” A feature about the site launch describes RumorGuard as “a one-stop shop for misinformation debunking and a glimpse into the fact-checking process, on top of a library of authoritative tools to help individuals spot, verify, and fight against rapidly spreading misinformation themselves.” Alee Quick, our civic marketing manager, and Dan Evon, our lead writer for RumorGuard, provided insightful interviews for the piece.

In this Washington Post feature, John Silva, senior director of professional and community learning, offered tips for engaging in productive conversations about politics this holiday season. Included was this solid advice for why you should avoid debate at the Thanksgiving dinner table and take the conversation to another setting: “None of us want to feel humiliated… We want to provide a safe pathway for these people to acknowledge that they were manipulated.”

Jake Lloyd, who manages social media at NLP, outlined news literacy tips for voters in his home state, Michigan. In this op-ed published in the nonprofit news site Bridge Michigan, Lloyd assures voters: “Learning how to tell fact from fiction is a powerful and empowering way to avoid being fooled by election-related hoaxes and conspiracy theories, without having to rely on social media platforms or anyone else to sift out and label all the nonsense out there.”

In pieces for the Columbia Journalism Review and WIRED, Peter Adams, who heads research and design at NLP, offered insights into partisan-driven news sites and misleading “pink slime” publications attempting to sway elections. Of the pink slime strategy  in Illinois, Adams told CJR: “It has all the appearance and trappings of an official news organization, and it’s trying to hitch a ride off the credibility of newspapers built over time.”

NLP in the news this September: Misinformation in the classroom, the military and sports

This fall, experts at the News Literacy Project have been trusted sources to give guidance for best practices to teach news literacy, explain why certain communities are more vulnerable to mis- and dis-information, and share tips for finding and sharing credible news and information.

As more schools and educators see the need for incorporating news literacy into their classrooms, Peter Adams, who heads research and design, told The New York Times that it’s important to have best practices. Without them, Adams warned lessons could backfire. “Some methods have become entrenched in schools that almost imply that students should question everything they see with an equal amount of skepticism,” Adams said in the piece. “This can invite young people to conclude that all sources of information are equally suspect or, even worse, to inflame a kind of nihilism.”

Before coming to NLP, John Silva, our senior director of professional and community learning, served in the Marines. In this piece by The War Horse, Silva shares insight into why members of the military community are vulnerable to mis- and dis-information campaigns. “When we start to talk about these big things—like patriotism, like our respect and admiration for our troops and our veterans—there’s deep emotions there,” Silva says in the article. “It’s really hard to have a critical conversation.”

Misinformation is everywhere – even in your sports news and information. Mike Webb, our senior vice president of media and marketing and long-time Pittsburgh Steelers football fan, penned an opinion piece full of helpful news literacy tips. Webb writes about a “teachable moment” when he enthusiastically retweeted a claim about head coach Mike Tomlin, only to later discover the post may have been too good to be true. Read it in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Peter Adams talks news literacy on Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone podcast

Peter Adams, NLP’s senior vice president of education, joined the Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone podcast on May 24 for an episode on news literacy. (The interview begins at 36:00 and ends at 1:09:00.)

Peter explained why conspiracy theories are appealing for so many. “Conspiracy theories – as complicated and as convoluted as they are – give people really simple explanations,” he said. “They break the world down into good and bad, noble patriots and evil people or whatever, and that’s a very comforting narrative.”

He also described how the current complex news and information environment differs from the past, and why it’s necessary to help students learn how to tell fact from fiction online. “We really see this as an issue of student rights and justice,” Peter said. “Students didn’t create this information environment we’ve been living in and talking about with all kinds of backwards incentives and intractable problems – they’re inheriting it.” To listen to the full episode, click here.

NLP response to Buffalo mass shooting

In response to the mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York this past Saturday, the News Literacy Project released the following statement:

The horrific May 14 mass shooting in Buffalo was inspired by the ‘great replacement theory,’ a racist, antisemitic ideology that festers in extremist echo chambers online and has seeped into mainstream political discourse. The shooting — which killed 10 people, most of them Black — was briefly livestreamed on Twitch before being taken down, but copies of the video continue to proliferate across social media. Meanwhile, news organizations took different approaches to describing the attack and some failed to accurately describe the racist motivation that led to the shooting.

“Racist conspiracy theories like this have very real consequences and we must do a better job of responding to them. We urge these institutions to take the following steps:

  1. Our education system must teach young people about conspiracy theories that can lead individuals to fall for false narratives that have violent, real-world consequences. News literacy education helps people learn to think critically and gain the skills to be smart, active consumers of news and other information and engaged participants in a democracy.
  2. Social media companies should strengthen their content moderation standards and devote necessary resources to strictly enforce their own terms of service policies. Devastating shootings, such as this one, happen frequently enough that these platforms should be able to respond immediately to limit the spread of hateful attacks.
  3. News organizations should avoid using euphemisms to describe these kinds of incidents. Once it was clear that the shooter intentionally targeted Black people, using language like “racially motivated” without also describing the attacks as racist dilutes and sanitizes the intent behind it. Accuracy matters, particularly when actions are fueled by disinformation and conspiracy theories. The news media should not hesitate to use strong but accurate language — such as “racist,” “antisemitic,” “extremist” and “white supremacist” — to describe the shooting and the “great replacement” ideology that appears to have motivated it.

“Until these issues are forcefully addressed, we will continue to be vulnerable to the actions of those who have fallen down the rabbit hole of conspiratorial thinking.”

Between our leadership transition, op-eds and interviews, NLP has had quite a few media hits recently. Here are a few of the highlights.

EdSurge recently reported on NLP’s leadership transition. Our founder and CEO, Alan Miller, will step down and hand the reins to our president and COO, Charles Salter, as the next CEO. Reporter Emily Tate spoke to both about our plans for the future. “As NLP evolves, it will continue its work in education and build out more programming on that side,” wrote Tate. “One effort is to help more states adopt media literacy requirements, as Texas and Illinois have done. Others include plans to develop a graduate-level course that trains educators to teach news literacy and a national news literacy conference for educators and students.” Read the full story here.

NLP’s soon-to-be CEO, Charles Salter, wrote the third in his trilogy of opinion pieces about why news literacy is an essential part of civics education. In an article in School Administrator, Salter notes, “The idea that public education must play a central role in sustaining our democratic system is older than the republic itself.” He adds that “democracy cannot survive with a people uninformed – or worse, ill-informed. Today, the work to renew civic education with news literacy as a fundamental skill is not about perpetuating our democratic system. It is about saving it.” Read the full piece, “Teaching Fact from Fiction,” here.

Peter Adams was joined by NewsGuard’s Jim Warren as a guest on WBEZ Chicago’s Reset with Sasha-Ann Simons to talk about how misinformation spreads online and what people can do to protect themselves from it. When asked about what people should think about when controversial issues arise in the news, Adams told listeners, “Anytime you have a highly polarizing, contentious social issue, purveyors of misinformation and bad actors and hyperpartisans really glom on to those issues and push a lot of falsehoods…As consumers, we see a lot of information and we see a lot of posts from people we don’t know and to really gravitate toward and focus on straight news reports from credible, standards-based outlets. We’re going to see a lot of punditry, we’re going to see opinion pieces and those sometimes get the most engagement in our feeds, so they can rise to the top. But we have to be really deliberate and seek out straight coverage.” Listen to the complete interview here.

And TVNewsCheck’s Michael Depp spoke with Alan Miller about how and why we’re educating the public to become news-literate. Alan told Depp, “We do teach people not what to think, but how to think. We don’t steer them to any particular platform or outlet, or away from any. We want to give people the tools to make the judgments about everything that they encounter. Should I trust this? Should I share this? Should I act on it?…We want people to be able to have the tools to look at anything they see and ask themselves basic questions before they decide what to do with that information.” Watch the full interview here.

SVP of communications discusses importance of teaching news literacy skills to students

Mike Webb, senior vice president of communications, recently spoke with The Hill about the desperate need for news literacy curriculum in K-12 schools. The piece opened with data collected by NLP, noting that 55 percent of students were not even moderately confident in their ability to recognize false information online.

When asked about NLP’s work and mission, Webb explained, “It’s really about helping people determine fact from fiction, and its nonpartisan. We don’t have a political agenda. We believe that everybody needs to make decisions that are founded on facts. So it’s really just about giving you the skills to think critically about the news and information you encounter, whether you should act on it, share it, whatever it is.”

To read the full piece, click here.

Peter Adams, Al Jazeera discuss Russian disinformation about war in Ukraine

Peter Adams, NLP’s senior vice president of education, joined a March 16 Al Jazeera livestream to discuss Russian disinformation around the war in Ukraine.

In a video comment, Adams shared that, “There’s a lot of state-sponsored disinformation being pushed around and some of that is just aimed to create confusion and doubt, making people not sure of what they can believe. The second thing that’s happening is conspiracy theories and narratives are starting to leak into the conversation. And finally, there’s a lot of slacktivism going on. A lot of people don’t know how to help and they want to amplify positive things. They want to amplify important videos of things that seem like what other people should know about, but they’re getting duped into quick likes and shares when they should be more careful.”

To view the full, archived stream, click here.

NLP’s Peter Adams and NBC News discuss myth of digital natives’ immunity to misinformation

NBC News recently reported that despite occasionally thinking they’re less susceptible to falsehoods on the internet, Gen Z can sometimes accidentally amplify misinformation. To flesh this out further, reporter Kalhan Rosenblatt spoke with NLP’s, Peter Adams, senior vice president of education.

“If your primary way of [consuming news] is input-grazing through TikTok or Snapchat or some other platform, there’s an impulse to just kind of react in passing and not really interrogate the source,” Adams said.

He also went on to suggest that young people who want to avoid sharing misinformation should begin practicing advocating for their right not to post, particularly during breaking news events, and to abstain from the possible spread of misinformation. One way to do so? Adams offered that young people can post “something like ‘I’m going to stay quiet to let the expert voices take the floor during this difficult time’ and kind of normalize that as a statement of support.”

To read the full article, click here.