Gear up for back-to-school with news literacy teaching tools, events and more

Are you — and your students — ready for the new school year?

Get ready with a foundation in news literacy — as well as best practices for teaching it — through our free educator webinars and resources. Additionally, sign up for Checkology®️, our FREE, browser-based, classroom-ready platform that teaches students how to think, not what to think.

When students become news-literate, they learn to better navigate our complex media landscape and avoid misinformation.

New lessons in STEM, opinion journalism and more

This year, Checkology’s newest lessons make it easy to bring news literacy to science, math and art classes among other subjects, such as civics, social studies, history and more. Be sure to share the news with your colleagues and emphasize the cross-curricular connections with your students!  These lessons, created in 2022, demonstrate news literacy’s sweeping relevancy:

Events for the new school year

  • Memes, editorial cartoons and visual journalism: Lessons for your classroom In this edWeb webinar, get a firsthand look at editorial cartooning, the focus of the Checkology lesson “Power in Art: The Watchdog Role of Editorial Cartoonists.” Hear from leading editorial cartoonists Lalo Alcaraz and Signe Wilkinson and NLP staff experts Peter Adams and Darragh Worland.
  • Get rolling with Checkology: Discover new content and more This introduction to brand-new content and features on Checkology will help you teach about social media, misinformation, data literacy and more! This webinar is offered three times during August; choose the session that best fits your schedule.
  • Building strong digital citizens: News and media literacy in the classroom In this edWeb webinar co-sponsored by EdCuration, news literacy ambassadors Allie Niese and Molly June Roquet will discuss how educators can encourage students’ digital citizenship skills.

Other educator resources

  • Subscribe to The Sift®, our free. weekly newsletter for educators — delivered during the school year — explores timely examples of misinformation, addresses media and press freedom topics and discusses social media trends and issues.
  • Explore the FREE classroom-ready material on our website, including infographics like How to teach news literacy in polarizing times and Eight tips to Google like a pro.
  • Check out our “News Literacy Foundations” collection on Flip.
  • Watch these videos to see how other educators found creative ways to teach news literacy during the challenging 2020-21 school year and benefit from their lessons learned.

Ambassador Connections: Meet Amanda Escheman

This is the first in an occasional series featuring our NewsLit Nation ambassadors.

Amanda Escheman, Denver

1. As a NewsLit Nation ambassador, you clearly are committed to news literacy education. What drives that commitment?

As an elder millennial, I had access to the internet growing up, and social media became popular during my high school years. I was a captain on our high school speech and debate team and was never afraid to bring up tough topics around the dining room table. I was appalled by the echo chamber I found myself in and appreciated the critical lens I was forming as a competitor in forensics. I engaged in critical thinking with fidelity and was inspired to pursue my bachelor’s in philosophy. It was in college that I developed literacy in critical processing, and I fell in love with education.

Now, as a social studies teacher, I am committed to helping others navigate and interrogate digital content in its many forms and break out of their own echo chambers. Often, digital consumers seem content with sharing unvetted information that reaffirms their biases, and media outlets exploit this vulnerability. The impact on the democratic process is striking; misinformation begets misinformed voters. I can see no greater threat to democracy than a misinformed electorate. This is truly an “us vs. the machine” challenge. Freedom of press grants news organizations the responsibility of guiding the public to make informed decisions. However, the digital renaissance has transformed the information machine into a tool for the attention economy. The value of profit seems to outweigh the value of an informed electorate. Within the classroom, I have the opportunity to do my part in helping students become thoughtful consumers of online content, and moreover, considerate participants in democracy. Critical literacies must evolve to address the changing landscape of news and other digital media.

2. What is your favorite tool or tip for teaching news literacy that you can share with the community?

I am a huge “X-Files” nerd and have always loved the absurdity of conspiracies and the suspension of logic in the sci-fi genre. To share my joy in the absurd, I would instruct a lesson on the Roswell Investigation. Students analyzed primary and secondary sources to form an opinion and explain their reasoning. This was always great fun.

However, in online spaces it becomes more and more difficult to separate fact from fiction. Information can be more easily manipulated, and most people lack the digital literacy skills needed to analyze and evaluate media. I have assigned various lessons through Checkology® to drill down on topics like search engines and algorithms as a way to bring awareness to the way online tools can shape and limit our experiences. The first step in teaching news literacy is to realize that we are fish in a digital data stream and must become aware of the water around us.

3. These are particularly challenging times for being an educator. What has been your go-to de stressor?

I am a history teacher, so I binge period shows like “Outlander.” I am also a collector of historical artifacts including old and rare books, the Civil War/Revolutionary War relics, antiques, and other items I can leverage to inspire my learners to engage. I recently started collecting antique, shellac 78’s and restored a gramophone from 1920. Now I am obsessed with genealogy and have fallen into the rabbit hole of ancestry research.

4. How do you promote news literacy outside of the classroom?

This spring I co-hosted a series of webinars with The Colorado Sun to discuss the foundations of news literacy, teaching controversial issues in the classroom and teaching news literacy during the midterms. Our goal was to inform other educators how to navigate news literacy in education. It is my hope to help integrate news literacy instructional methods into more professional development circles.

5. Aside from fighting for facts, what else are you passionate about?

I am passionate about student civic engagement in local politics. Across the political spectrum, students need to engage with local party leaders and feel invested in their communities. For example, in Colorado, party members under the age of 18 can caucus! Within the Democratic caucus someone who is 16 years old can even vote! This is one way that students can make a political mark and elect local, state and national leadership in a big way.

Are you also interested in fighting misinformation? NLP is seeking middle and high school educators in Hawai’i, Illinois, Ohio, New Mexico, Texas and Utah, to join our national News Literacy Ambassador Program. Deadline is July 31. Click here for details!

A message from our new CEO: Charles ‘Chuck’ Salter

From a mission to a movement

Friends of NLP:

You are part of a community of tens of thousands of people who have, in some way, supported the News Literacy Project. You might be an educator, a concerned citizen or an advocate of news literacy education. Many of you also support our work financially. I’m grateful our paths have crossed, and I want to thank you for your partnership and reintroduce myself.

I’m Chuck Salter, and after serving for the past four years as president and COO of NLP, I had the honor of becoming president and CEO on July 1, succeeding our visionary founder, Alan MillerWhile I hope to meet many of you in the months and years ahead, if you’d like to know a bit about me now, you can check out this Q&A, read my bio or watch this video, and please follow me on Twitter @saltercrs.

This is an exciting time at NLP. We are turning our mission into a movement to create a future founded on facts. In addition to new leadership, we have a new strategic plan with a redoubled commitment to not only expand our work in schools across the country through new programs and resources but also to reach out to the public as well. We are helping everyone become more discerning consumers of news and other information and better engaged — and more equal — participants in our democracy.

The need for this movement has never been greater. American democracy is under attack, along with the rights and freedoms it promises for all people.  While their motives vary, merchants of chaos advance their agendas by taking advantage of our complex and quickly moving information landscape to sow doubt, confusion, fear and even anger and hatred among all of us. No democratic society can endure this type of division — it destroys the foundation of the shared reality that’s required for honest debate and eventual consensus.

But there is hope, and you are part of that hope. I thank you for your support of our work, and I look forward to more people joining all of us in the years ahead to help strengthen our democratic discourse and create a more news-literate America.

My best,

Charles “Chuck”  Salter

Hometown Headlines contest winner covers pandemic from student perspective

Headshot of Willa Earnest BlumFor Los Angeles middle school student Willa Earnest-Blum, the jarring re-entry into the social landscape of in-person classes after pandemic restrictions ended inspired an idea that led to a news story.

A student at Girls Academic Leadership Academy in Los Angeles, Willa pitched her story idea about the difficult adjustment to the News Literacy Project’s first Hometown Headlines contest. To enter, students submitted a news story idea to NLP staff, who chose the best pitch to develop into an article.

Willa’s journalism teacher Jessica Valera encouraged her to enter the contest after she finished her Checkology® virtual classroom lessons ahead of schedule.

Her experiences at her school gave her the idea for the story, as she and her classmates were finding ordinary in-person interactions awkward. “It just came to mind,” she said. “I feel like it’s really evident right now at my school. My experiences day to day made me think of it.”

Yet, she and her friends didn’t talk about the issue, which made her recognize the need to tell the story. “It made it more important to me.”

She wrote:

 Teachers and students started questioning how a return to normal, in-person classroom settings — where one is seen constantly — has impacted those who for so long adapted to logging onto class from the comfort of home. 

Students were once behind a screen, free of other people’s eyes. Now every little mistake was amplified by being front and center.

Her mom, Rebecca Baron, said she didn’t even know Willa had entered the contest until Valera called to say she had won. “She really did it on her own. She was very independent in doing this, and I am really excited for her.”

Importance of multiple perspectives

Willa, 12, interviewed her teacher, a classmate and the school counselor. “I felt like it was important to cover all the bases of different perspectives. It taught me a lot talking to my counselor and my teacher and my classmate because I got to see their perspectives, which was sometimes different from mine.”

With the help of NLP staff —  Katie Aberbach, education marketing manager, and Kim Bowman, senior associate of user success — Willa created a Google Doc to organize her reporting, complete with checklists, names of sources and the information they provided. Aberbach then helped connect Willa with local reporter Brandon Pho, a journalist at Voice of OC in California  and a Report for America fellow. He helped Willa develop the story during a series of virtual meetings.

Her thoroughness immediately impressed Pho. “She organized her reporting better than I organize my notes out in the field,” Pho said. “We would go to that document and ask, ‘What is this story about? What are the voices? What do they have to say?’”

He asked her what stood out to her as the most interesting piece of information in her notes, and this sparked Willa’s idea for story’s opening:

Nearly 700 kids at Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA) are a window into an issue affecting nearly 50 million public school students nationwide.

“That lede was entirely her idea,” Pho said, referring to the opening paragraph of a news story intended to entice the reader.

Connecting with the reader

Willa said Pho helped her find the heart of her story. “He really taught me how to take a small quote and something I thought would not be important and to give it a longer, deeper perspective.”

In working with him, Willa began to better understood her own feelings about the issue and was able to translate this into something the reader could connect to. And sometimes, she learned, this means leaving things out. “We talked about things that could take away from the overall message. You don’t need to say it all,” she noted.

Pho said he found the experience rewarding and gained insights into his work as he considered the basic concepts of journalism and shared them with Willa. In the end, he thought Willa’s article was a strong piece of journalism.

“As long as she has a story to tell, it doesn’t matter that she was a sixth grader. It wasn’t a good news story, it was a great news story,” he said.

Willa’s article:

Re-entering school life post pandemic made the familiar seem foreign

By Willa Earnest-Blum

The nearly 700 kids at Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA) provide a window into an issue that has affected nearly 50 million public school students nationwide.

When schools reopened following pandemic shutdowns, they faced challenges in social settings that weren’t as prominent as before. A once-familiar routine of roll call and reading the day’s schedule on the whiteboard had suddenly become foreign.

Teachers and students started questioning how a return to normal, in-person classroom settings — where one is seen constantly — has impacted those who for so long adapted to logging onto class from the comfort of home.

Students were once behind a screen, free of other people’s eyes. Now every little mistake was amplified by being front and center.

“We started to transition back and forth without time to adapt,” said Kacie Magoski, who is the school counselor for the GALA, adding that it takes time after periods of change “to find a safe space.”

Magoski said that the pandemic lockdown’s “safety protocols” meant students were now “unable to make friends.” In the virtual setting, ideas of “boundaries,” low self-esteem, and beauty standards took the back seat.

But students have had to re-adjust to those factors all at once, Magoski said, meaning students need more support from parents and teachers.

It also has some teachers thinking about what they would have done differently.

“I would have gotten more counseling services for myself and for my daughter because I didn’t anticipate the impact distance learning lockdown isolation in the pandemic would have on us,” said Jessica Valera, a teacher at GALA.

It was personal for Valera, whose own daughter similarly struggled during the pandemic.

“Seeing the struggles of my daughter during distance learning made me more empathetic and understanding to my students and their difficulty learning online,” Valera said.

Yet there appear to be some positives.

Some students say the isolation has in and of itself taught them key lessons.

It taught Clementine Birnbaum to “appreciate” and “take advantage” of the “little things” that she took for granted before, such as the time with friends that school provided.

Birnbaum also said she enjoys social life more, if a little more germophobic — and that she’s more careful about other perspectives.

It also made her more conscious of her family’s safety, she said, taking daily precautions like wearing a mask, as the threat of COVID-19 still looms.

East-West Center honors NLP founder with Distinguished Alumni Award

The East-West Center, an independent, public nonprofit that works to improve relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia and the Pacific, awarded NLP founder and former CEO Alan C. Miller with its 2022 EWC Distinguished Alumni Award June 30 in Honolulu.

The honor recognizes outstanding accomplishments, including major contributions to the EWC mission, significant career achievements and continuing support for the goals and objectives of the Center. The awards were presented at the East-West Center/East-West Center Association conference. Miller was unable to travel to Hawaii to accept the award but delivered remarks to conference attendees via video. The text of those remarks is below.

‘Demonstrated excellence and achievements’

Miller had a distinguished career as a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist with the Los Angeles Times before founding NLP in 2008. He earned a master’s degree in political science in 1978 from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and was a student participant at the Center’s Communications Institute from 1976 to 1978. He also  completed an internship in The Washington Post’s Tokyo bureau and edited the student magazine, Impulse.

The Center is recognizing Miller for “the demonstrated excellence and achievements in his initial and second careers, which are both worthy of recognition. Building on the skills and cross-cultural experience he gained at the Center, he has demonstrated integrity, determination, vision, creativity, courage and professional commitment to journalism and education and remained supportive of the goals of the Center. Miller continues to support the goals and objectives of the Center by participating in Center events and remains in touch with Center friends and colleagues.”

He was honored alongside Andolgor Purevjav, a leader, author, human resources consultant and mentor in Mongolia who incorporates the Center’s values through her work with the Ganabell Institute of Success.

Miller’s remarks

I’m sorry that I can’t be with you all in person but I’m there in spirit.

Thank you so much President Vares-Lum, Jim Scott and the alumni association for this very special and meaningful honor.

A heartfelt mahalo goes to my former East-West Center colleague and friend Tinu Brara, who is with you, for having nominated me.

My time at the center was one of the most consequential and enriching experiences of my life.

I had previously spent a college semester in Japan. But it was my time in Honolulu — and through such experiences as attending programs at Jefferson Hall, enjoying the camaraderie and international cuisines at food co-ops in Hale Manoa, co-editing the student magazine Impulse and gaining a master’s degree at UH — that opened up the rest of Asia and the Pacific for me. It was there that I formed deep friendships that have lasted nearly half a century.

As an aspiring journalist, I enjoyed helping host Jefferson Fellows from Japan, Singapore and Thailand and am delighted to see that this program is still thriving.

My field study was a highlight of my experience. I was fortunate to land an internship in The Washington Post’s Tokyo bureau, three years after the paper broke the Watergate scandal. I got to shadow the Post’s East Asia bureau chief, complete a project on the American press in Japan and write two stories published by the paper.

My internship with the Post led to my first fulltime newspaper job working for Harry Rosenfeld, who had been Woodward and Bernstein’s boss at the paper during Watergate. Harry had just left the Post to edit two papers in Albany, N.Y., and I was his first hire. He was an exacting and inspiring boss and became a longtime friend and mentor.

When I left the center, I hoped to become a foreign correspondent based in Tokyo and was offered that chance by the LA Times. But by then I had found my calling as an investigative reporter in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Yet, I had one more special Asia sojourn in store.

In 1998, I was awarded a Japan Society fellowship and pursued two projects that reflected both the transcendent and the tawdry sides of Japan. For one, I interviewed six ningen kokuho – living national treasures – masters of traditional crafts and arts, including the country’s foremost bunraku puppeteer and a sword-maker who restored swords of the samurai.

For the other, I dug into Japan’s shadowy campaign finance practices, comparing them to what I had unearthed in my investigative work on this subject in the U.S. and turned this into a page one story for the LA Times.

Since embarking on my second career with the News Literacy Project, it has been gratifying to make connections with my center experience as well. Educators in 25 counties in Asia and the Pacific have registered to use our Checkology virtual classroom and the Yomiuri Shimbun has made some of our other resources available in Japan. Leading Asian news outlets have done pieces on us.

Moreover, educators in Hawaii have used Checkology since 2017 to reach more than 1,400 students, and we have forged a strong and growing partnership with the Hawaii Department of Education. Recently, President Vares-Lum has become an effective champion for NLP and news literacy across the state as well.

In the end, it is the close friendships forged at the center that have meant the most. This includes Stu Glauberman, my roommate in Hale Manoa and co-editor of Impulse who remained in Hawaii, and Ian Gill, a colleague at the Communications Institute who settled in the Philippines, as well as Tinu.

For all of us, Mike Anderson was an extraordinary friend at the center and for more than four decades thereafter, who we lost much too soon a year ago this month. Throughout his long, distinguished career as a diplomat in Asia, Mike epitomized the values of the center in promoting understanding, mutual respect and cooperation. He won this award in 2002. I am honored to follow in his footsteps, and in those of others who have come before me.  

Thank you again for this treasured recognition and for the chance to reflect on how much the center and my experience in Hawaii have meant to me.

About the East-West Center

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

Founders’ concern about fractured America relevant then, now

How are you celebrating the Fourth of July — with fireworks, a parade, a family cookout?

Try sharpening your news literacy skills! Our nation’s founders would be proud of you.

While they didn’t have to contend with the 24-hour news cycle, internet trolls or dangerous conspiracy theories, the Founding Fathers were concerned that misinformation and siloed thinking could weaken our young democracy.

In PoliticusUSA Tim Libretti, an Illinois university professor, wrote that the founders worries extended beyond meddling by foreign powers. They also were concerned about the vulnerability of the population to deceit and manipulation by their fellow citizens. However, the Founding Fathers put great stock in the people’s ability to make sound decisions based on facts that served the public good.

But John Adams had his doubts, Libretti noted. He feared that “human reason, and human conscience, … are not a match for human passions, human imaginations, and human enthusiasm.”

Factionalism, then and now

Adams wasn’t the only Founding Father with concerns. In America Magazine, a Jesuit publication, Matt Malone wrote that James Madison worried about factionalism, or the public breaking down into small, single-minded groups that act at the expense of the greater whole. And the Father of the Constitution provided an example: Tiny Rhode Island, which was beset by factionalism. “Madison believed that only a large society, occupying a vast expanse of space, could be effectively governed as a republic. If the place were too small, then like-minded people could too easily find one another and form a faction,” Malone wrote.

He quotes Madison as saying,“In the extended republic of the United States a coalition of a majority of the whole society could seldom take place on any other principles than those of justice and common good.”

Today, millions of Americans need not cram themselves into 1,200 square miles — the size of Rhode Island — to form a powerful and destabilizing faction. Thanks to the internet and social media they can just look at their phones.

With little effort, anyone can find groups of like-minded, passionate people whose beliefs are often based on misinformation and conspiracy theories, with QAnon being one of the most widespread and dangerous. Many adherents were among the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Education is the antidote

What can you do on July 4 to stand up for the Republic? Become more news-literate so you are not vulnerable to conspiracy theories and factionalism.

And put your faith in the power of education, as Thomas Jefferson did. “I think by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom, and happiness,” he wrote in 1786.

Of course, his idea of diffusion of knowledge excluded enslaved Africans and all women.

At NLP, we strongly believe that education is the most effective and equitable approach to developing a more news-literate public. Our society relies on people who can think critically, engage responsibly with information, value our democracy and participate in keeping it robust. That’s why we hope you’ll spend some time with our resources to sharpen your ability to recognize misinformation. And please share that knowledge with your family, friends and network.

Happy Fourth of July!

Tools for recognizing information and helping others do the same

A big part of being news-literate is knowing what to watch out for and being able to recognize misinformation. That way, you can pause when you see it — and NOT share!

You can also respond to posts in replies and comments, letting others know — without amplifying —content that is false, misleading or taken out of context.

Why do people share misinformation? Bad actors and those attempting to cause confusion share disinformation, typically for personal, political or financial gain. But many people, often with good intentions, are fooled into sharing falsehoods, further polluting the information landscape.

Our misinformation infographic can help you understand what misinformation is and how to recognize it.

Talking with family and friends

While always problematic, when misinformation appears alongside pet photos and family updates on social media, it can be especially frustrating and unwelcome. It’s one thing if a stranger spreads falsehoods online. While every scenario is different, following some general best practices can help keep the conversation civil and make the interaction worthwhile. It may not be easy but talking to loved ones about false or misleading content can help them think twice about what to share in the future. Stepping into the role of fact-checker when it comes to loved ones can be tricky and stir strong emotions, so it’s worth preparing for — especially as more falsehoods seep across social media and into family and friend group chats. Check out this poster, How to speak up without starting a showdown, which outlines six steps to guide you through a conversation with family and friends.

Critical points to remember about misinformation:

  • Falsehoods always reach more people than corrections.
  • Once misinformation is online, it spreads quickly.
  • Anyone can fall victim to falsehoods.
  • There’s no such thing as good misinformation — facts matter!

News Literacy Ambassador Program is growing  

NLP’s News Literacy Ambassador Program, a national initiative to mobilize educators and amplify organizing efforts in the fight against misinformation, is an essential part of our ambitious four-year plan to build a more news-literate nation, and, in turn, a more robust, equitable democracy.

That’s why we are expanding this program with a call for applications from middle and high school educators living in Hawai’i, Illinois, Ohio, New Mexico, Southwest Texas and Utah.

We’re looking for people who can have an immediate and meaningful impact on our work, are unafraid to experiment, can work collaboratively as well as independently and believe in the importance of quality professional learning to empower educators to teach middle and high school students how to sort fact from fiction in the digital age.

To reach NLP’s goal of embedding news literacy in the American education experience, we are activating the ambassadors as a regional movement-building model to mobilize news literacy advocates for systemic change. The overall goal is for ambassadors to champion news literacy education at the local level, helping educators teach students how to think (not what to think).

Advocates for news literacy education who want to make a difference in their community can learn more and apply by July 31. These part-time positions include a small stipend. Find out more about NLP’s current news literacy ambassadors here.For questions, please email network@newslit.org.

All educators interested in exchanging resources and receiving timely updates about news literacy may join NLP’s NewsLit Nation Facebook Group.

Nation, states and local communities embrace Juneteenth

NLP recognizes and celebrates the 157th Juneteenth, which became an official United States holiday last year. The designation commemorates June 19, 1865, when federal troops freed the last slaves of the Confederacy in Galveston, Texas. More than two and a half years earlier, on Jan. 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. And two months earlier, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union Army, ending the Civil War.

Also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration marking the end of slavery in the United States, according to the National Archives. Juneteenth has been formally celebrated primarily by people in Black communities in Texas since 1866.

Prior to President Joe Biden designating it a national holiday in 2021, most states and the District of Columbia recognized Juneteenth with an observance of some sort. It was already a holiday in some states, with Texas leading the way in 1980.

While many states automatically adopt a new federal holiday, they do not have to. After last year’s federal declaration, states across the U.S. — both “red” and “blue” — quickly moved to codify the holiday. These include Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Michigan, North Dakota, Utah and West Virginia, among others. Counties and cities around the country have also declared Juneteenth a holiday, further establishing it as an important day in American history.

Steer clear of misinformation about Juneteenth

We encourage you to join the News Literacy Project in celebrating Juneteenth and learning more about its history and meaning. This Smithsonian piece is a good place to start. And this New York Times interactive article from 2020 puts the holiday in perspective while celebrating it, too.

As with any important day in U.S. history, there is misinformation about Juneteenth, myths that perpetuate from one decade to the next, and current-day efforts to present the holiday as something it’s not. Make sure to search out an array of credible, standards-based sources and fact-checks and don’t assume anything you see about the holiday — especially posts on social media that trigger emotional reactions such as anger — is credible.

For much more on the Juneteenth holiday, check out our Flipboard collection of articles and resources.

NLPeople: Sara Lewis, operations manager

This is part of a series that introduces you to the people of NLP.

NLPeople Sara Lewis, operations manager
Takoma Park, Maryland

1.) Can you tell us a little about your background and what brought you to NLP?

I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and am a proud Michigander. At the University of Michigan, service was a big part of my college experience, and it was through volunteering with children that I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I joined Teach for America right out of college and began my professional journey in education. I taught high school and middle school social studies for seven years, most of them in Washington, D.C., and then I then transitioned to supporting teachers through working in operations at education nonprofits in New Haven and Boston. After being a full-time mom for five years, I then found my way to NLP, which felt like a perfect fit for me as a former social studies teacher and nonprofit operations manager.

2.) How has your Teach for America experience working with students in underserved areas informed your work at NLP?

Well to start, I so wish that NLP had been in existence when I was teaching social studies. As a former teacher, not only can I appreciate the incredible resources NLP provides for educators, but I also understand the need for strong systems to make an organization run smoothly. When I was teaching in urban public schools several years ago, there were broken systems at every turn and that kept all stakeholders from having the experience that they deserved. Thus, when I started working in nonprofit operations, I made it a priority to create and implement organized systems that make life easier for all staff and the educators we serve.

3.) Since joining NLP, what has been your most satisfying or surprising experience?

During my first year of teaching, I spent each evening reviewing and sometimes learning the content that I was about to teach the next day. And while staying just a day ahead of my students certainly wasn’t ideal, I did truly enjoy learning new material that I hadn’t been taught in my history classes. Lacking a background in journalism, I was surprised to discover when I first started working for NLP just how much I didn’t know about what goes into creating quality news. I soon realized that one of the biggest perks of this job would be getting to again learn something new every day. At NLP, I am constantly learning new things about news literacy and that’s been probably the most satisfying and surprising part of being a part of this organization.

4.) You have young kids; do they understand NLP’s work and your role?

The other day I overheard a conversation between my 7-year-old daughter and a friend in which they were discussing what their parents did at work. My daughter explained to her friend that her mom “helps people understand what to believe on the internet,” so she has a general understanding of the work that NLP does. My 10-year-old son certainly has a higher level of understanding of NLP’s work than his sister. He has always been quite precocious, and like his mom, is a history buff and a news junkie. One of my favorite things to do with him while we’re in the car on the way to soccer practice is to listen to news podcasts and then talk about the content. I look forward to introducing him to Checkology in the near future!

5.) What news literacy tip, tool or guidance do you most often use?

I’m not sure that this is the tool I use most often, but my favorite new literacy tool is probably geolocation. While my family is quite settled in our current house and we have no plans to move anytime soon, I am a real estate junkie and I love checking out the online listings of nearby homes for sale and using Google Street View to explore new neighborhoods.

6.) Aside from fighting for facts, what else are you passionate about?

The outdoors! I love being outside in all sorts of weather, particularly in the snow. Unfortunately for me, D.C. gets only one or two good snowfalls a year (if that). I grew up skiing, ice skating on the lake, playing ice hockey, and building snow forts, and I love to find ways to get outside with my family. One of the best parts of the pandemic has been all the hiking that I’ve been able to convince my husband and kids to do with me. In addition to playing outside, I also love traveling and exploring new places.

7.) Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat? Or do you prefer stuffed animals to pets?

My mother is quite the animal lover, and I grew up with dogs, cats, guinea pigs, cockatiels, finches, fish, frogs and bunnies. Somehow, I managed to marry a man who is not even an animal liker, thus our house is devoid of pets. But I’m definitely on team dog. Someday I plan to come home with a dog and hopefully my husband will come around to the new member of our family.

8.) What item do you always have in your fridge?

A lemon. I use lemons all the time. In my tea, squeezed over roasted veggies, to make marinades and dressings, etc.

9.) What’s in your backpack, laptop case or pocket right now?

I’m a mom so I of course have a giant purse that contains all the usual items (keys, wallet, mask, reusable grocery bags), but then I also have lots of snacks, band-aids and Kleenex. Oh, and my planner, which is made of paper! I get teased for having a paper planner, but I much prefer this old school method of organizing my life.

2022 Gwen Ifill Student of the Year

2022 Gwen Ifill Student of the Year
Alysa Baltimore
Station Camp High School
Gallatin, Tennessee

When her AP English teacher let Alysa Baltimore and her classmates choose a book to read and report on, Baltimore saw it as an opportunity to learn more about an issue important to her — racial justice.

She chose Just Mercy, a nonfiction book about redemption and justice by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which works to end mass incarceration. Stephanie Jones, Baltimore’s  teacher at Station Camp High School in Gallatin, Tennessee, was not surprised that she chose such a serious and meaningful read.

“She is an intelligent young woman who is passionate about many issues, especially those concerning race,” said Jones, who nominated Baltimore as NLP’s Gwen Ifill Student of the Year.

Baltimore, a junior, will be honored as one of NLP’s News Literacy Change-Makers in a virtual event June 9 along with the Alan C. Miller Educator of the Year and the John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year. Register here to join the event.

To be considered for the award, students submit an essay demonstrating how becoming more news-literate has impacted their lives. Baltimore, 16, explained how she used newfound research and critical thinking skills to deepen her knowledge of mass incarceration in an effort  to make others aware of the issue.

“Finding adequate statistics and facts on mass incarceration might have been challenging if it weren’t for the skills that I developed from completing the Checkology® virtual classroom lessons,” she wrote in her award submission.

What she learned also has influenced her daily habits. “When you have so many people manipulating the truth, it becomes challenging to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not. Checkology has changed the way I look at social media and news articles. Now I check the background before I share anything,” she said.

Baltimore also has become the person friends and family go to when they are unsure about the credibility of information they encounter. “I do think I have a responsibility to correct people,” she said of friends who seek her out, and her sister in particular. “If she’ll come to me with something that might not be accurate, I can help her find true information and help build her connection with what I’m passionate about,” she said.

Baltimore credits Checkology with helping to give her the insight to recognize a professional goal for her future, which is someday becoming a defense attorney. “On the surface, Checkology may be viewed as simple lessons on finding quality articles, but it ultimately led me to developing a passion for equality, equity and justice,” she said.

About Gwen Ifill

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

2022 John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year

2022 John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year
Pierre Thomas, Chief Justice Correspondent, ABC News

Over his long and distinguished career, Pierre Thomas has covered some of the biggest stories of our time. While doing so as the chief Justice correspondent for ABC News, he also has taken the initiative to go beyond the story and help the public understand the vital role that journalism plays in our democracy.

“Journalists are not always portrayed as patriotic, but we are,” Thomas said. “And we want the country to thrive, and one of the ways it can do well is to have a public that knows how to consume news.”

Thomas has been volunteering with the News Literacy Project in various capacities since 2009 and has played a meaningful role in the organization’s growth. In recognition of his commitment to both quality journalism and to news literacy education, Thomas has been named the News Literacy Project’s 2022 John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year.

“In addition to being a superb, award-winning journalist, Thomas embodies the journalistic and personal values that John S. Carroll epitomized,” NLP founder and CEO Alan C. Miller said in nominating Thomas for the award.

Thomas was one of NLP’s first volunteer journalist fellows; he participated in the in-person classroom program and initial digital unit, which evolved to become the Checkology® virtual classroom, and took part in five NLP-related events between February 2009 and January 2022. Thomas served on two prior advisory groups and is now a member of the National Leadership Council.

“Given what’s at stake in this moment that we find ourselves, we have to get as many people to know how to discern the news and how to consume it as possible,” he said. “And if anyone did not understand why an organization like News Literacy Project is important, all you need to do is look at January 6th. A bunch of people, angry, showed up, committed acts of violence based on misinformation. And that’s not a political view, that’s a journalistic, fact-driven view.”

Thomas will be honored as a News Literacy Change-Maker in a virtual celebration event June 9 along with NLP’s Alan C. Miller Educator of the Year and the Gwen Ifill Student of the Year. To join the event, register here.

As the ABC News chief Justice correspondent, Thomas covers major stories across all ABC News platforms. Since joining the network in 2000, he has covered some of the most important news stories of the day, from the 9/11 terrorist attacks to mass shootings to racial injustice. He has received many of journalism’s highest  honors, including the prestigious Peabody and Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University awards and numerous Emmys and Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists.

Thomas is also the past chairman of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.

In 2020, he reported on the murder of George Floyd and the racial injustice and police brutality protests that followed.

About John S. Carroll

Named for one of the most revered newspaper editors of his generation, the John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year 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.