On Democracy Day, preparing for difficult conversations that build trust

The spread of misinformation, an erosion of trust in standards-based news organizations and deepening political polarization continue to pose major threats to American democracy. In an effort to confront these threats, journalists around the country on Sept. 15 are observing Democracy Day, publishing stories that explain how democracy works and encouraging greater civic participation among readers, viewers and listeners.

The Center for Cooperative Media launched the effort last year to coincide with the International Day of Democracy, which is designated by the United Nations as an annual event to review the state of democracy in the world.

Participating news outlets are publishing stories and op-eds today that cover election processes, voting rights, civic engagement and explanatory reporting on how newsrooms are covering elections and public policy issues.

This Democracy Day, the News Literacy Project also is joining the effort, announcing two events intended to help everyone build understanding and trust in our democracy within their own networks of influence.

We’re teaming up with the National Institute for Civil Discourse and the League of Women Voters to host two free public webinars about how to talk to loved ones who share misinformation.

It can be difficult to know how to respond when a friend or family member shares a viral hoax, fabricated photo or conspiracy theory. As we prepare for the holiday season and a presidential election in 2024, we can expect to encounter rumors and falsehoods, as well as heated debate.

Our webinar, Productive conversations without confrontation, will offer strategies for productive, civil conversations – especially when discussing misinformation.

Register now

We’re hosting two different sessions of the same webinar – pick the date and time that works best for you.

Session 1 is at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT Tuesday, Oct. 24. Session 2 is set for 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT Thursday, Nov. 16 – one week before Thanksgiving.

Register for the October session here. Register for the November session here.

DeMario Phipps-Smith, senior manager of community learning at NLP, will be joined by Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer, director emeritus of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, and Chelsey Cartwright, program director for the League of Women Voters Democracy Truth Project.

They will discuss tools for debunking misinformation, setting the table for productive conversations, the basics for talking about falsehoods, how to build coalitions and communities that value credible information and why it’s important to have these difficult conversations.

We hope you’ll join us this fall.

In the meantime, read Democracy Day reporting from around the country here.

This article is part of U.S. Democracy Day, a nationwide collaborative on Sept. 15, the International Day of Democracy, in which news organizations cover how democracy works and the threats it faces. To learn more, visit usdemocracyday.org.

Library of Congress honors News Literacy Project with its highest award

Rubenstein Prize recognizes efforts to improve literacy in the U.S. or abroad

NLP today received the highest honor from the Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program, the David M. Rubenstein Prize, in recognition of NLP’s outstanding efforts to help people of all ages identify misinformation and help stop its spread.

The awards are given annually on Sept. 8, which UNESCO has designated as International Literacy Day. The David M. Rubenstein Prize goes to an organization that has shown an “exceptional and sustained” commitment to advancing literacy while meeting “the highest standards of excellence in its operations and services.” Past awardees include Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Reading is Fundamental. NLP, a national nonpartisan education nonprofit, is the leading provider of news literacy education, offering free resources, tools and programs for educators and the public.

“The News Literacy Project is committed to ensuring a future founded on facts. The David M. Rubenstein Prize is a testament to the real, measurable impact of our programs. We are honored to receive this recognition from the Library of Congress,” said Charles Salter, president and CEO of NLP.

About the award

Established in 2013 and generously supported by philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, the Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program recognizes organizations that provide exemplary, innovative, sustainable and replicable strategies to promote literacy and reading. The Literacy Awards also include an American Prize and International Prize. Up to 15 organizations each year are named Successful Practices Honorees. For additional information about the awards and previous winners, as well as an interactive program map, visit the Library of Congress website.


Back to school with NLP and TIME for Kids

The News Literacy Project and TIME for Kids are teaming up this school year to bring educators seven weeks of news literacy resources and lessons. From September through mid-October, the upper elementary editions of the TIME for Kids teacher’s guide will feature classroom-ready materials that highlight the magazine’s journalism and NLP’s free resources.

Intended for grades 3 – 6, the lessons explore how to distinguish between facts and opinions; identify different types and purposes of information, like advertising and news; recognize the standards of quality journalism, and more. Each lesson builds foundational news literacy skills and provides opportunities for students to apply those skills through rich discussion prompts, collaborative group activities and challenging independent work. NLP’s Hannah Covington and Pam Brunskill co-created the materials along with Candace Dipsey of TIME for Kids. See the whole unit at ti.me/MediaLitUnit.

“This is an exciting collaboration that brings together the expertise of the News Literacy Project and TIME for Kids educators, whom we know understand the importance of teaching students how to identify credible sources of news and information,” said Peter Adams, NLP’s senior vice president of research and design.

To help educators take advantage of these and other instructional resources, TIME for Kids will offer a 20% discount to members of NLP’s NewsLitNation®, a free member community of news literacy education practitioners. Educators can join NewsLitNation now to take advantage of this offer. Members will also be entered into a drawing for a free classroom subscription to TIME for Kids, provided by the magazine. More details about how to enter and how to take advantage of the discount offer will be shared soon with the NewsLitNation community.

About TIME for Kids

Built on TIME’s long legacy, TIME for Kids has been a trusted news source for nearly 30 years, publishing a weekly current events magazine for kids during the school year as well as expanding into a global multi-channel education brand.

TIME for Kids builds the critical reading skills kids need to succeed in the information era. An annual subscription helps young readers better understand our complex world, and nurtures them to become informed, active citizens.


Science teacher couldn’t have planned it any better

His course was ready to meet new media literacy requirement

Illinois high school educator Tom Foss credits his experience with both skeptics and conspiracy theorists and a background in science and humanities for preparing him to teach media literacy.

“I used to be active in scientific skepticism circles. I did presentations on chain letters, scams and conspiracy theories. That was my window in, and I think a lot of critical thinking is just scientific thinking,” said Foss, who teaches chemistry, physical science and physics to grades 9-12 at Newark Community High School in rural Illinois.

Having majored in physics and English in college, he brings these dual perspectives to the classroom. Nearly a decade ago, he began assigning research projects to his chemistry students and included a lesson on how to find reliable scientific sources. Then the pandemic hit, suspending in-person classes. “I needed something to teach on our remote days,” Foss said.

He found the Stanford History Education Group’s Civic Online Reasoning resources and other material for teaching students how to determine the credibility of sources and information. By the end of the 2020-21 school year, he had built a curriculum that brought a science lens to media and news literacy, but he had no place to fit it into his courses.

“I saw much more retention and deeper thinking and more tangible results by doing this as an extended process. This made it really clear we needed more than one unit,” he said.

Mandating media literacy

Foss spoke with teachers who recognized the value of his approach and then learned that Illinois was about to pass a law requiring media literacy instruction beginning in the 2022-23 school year. Foss called it serendipity, but at his school his work was more like the catalyst for a news literacy chemical reaction — a process that generates products which then sustain that process.

With a curriculum in hand, media literacy became a semester-long required class for freshmen at his school in fall 2022.  When researching resources for the new class, Foss discovered the News Literacy Project and its Checkology® virtual classroom, which helped him bring a comprehensive approach and common vocabulary to the course. Among the Checkology lessons he teaches are “InfoZones,” “Misinformation,” Understanding Bias” and “Making Sense of Data.”

Work done by students in Foss’ class.

Foss wants his students to understand that things often are more complicated than they seem, with a greater level of complexity underneath. “The simple narratives are almost always obfuscation. You should always question simple things that feel right,” he tells his students. He wants them to have the skills to analyze information, find credible sources and be open to changing their minds when confronted with evidence that contradicts their beliefs. “That’s a really hard thing for anyone to do.”

The course has opened students’ eyes to the darker elements of the internet. They are surprised to discover how easily their privacy can be violated, how little control they ultimately have over what they post and how seamlessly legitimate content can be turned into misinformation.

“They’ll notice a deepfake edit but they’ll miss the caption that gives it false context. I tell them the easiest way to fool you doesn’t require Photoshop or After Effects, it can take only a few words,” he said. “I’m really proud when I start seeing the kids make distinctions between what they’re being told and what they’re seeing.”

Artificial intelligence a new challenge

This skill is particularly important given the ways artificial intelligence is making it increasingly difficult to tell what’s real and what’s not. And that goes for educators, too, as students have always found hidden ways to get others to help with assignments. Up to now such interference has been decidedly analog. “It’s more that kids have their friends do their homework. The original AI.” Foss quipped.

Before the 2022-23 school year even ended, he was thinking about ways to improve his curriculum for the fall. He’ll create a “bell ringer” activity to start each class; he’ll tweak the lesson sequence; pare down some sections and beef up others, and give students a more active role. “I want them to do more hands-on work rather than listening to me talk,” he said.

And Foss can’t wait to see what lasting impacts media and news literacy competency has on his students. “I’m really interested to see this group of freshmen four years from now when they do their senior capstone [research] projects.”

NLPeople: Pam Brunskill, senior manager of education design

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

Pam Brunskill
Buffalo, New York

1. Can you tell us what led you to the news literacy movement?

In 2016, I was getting most of my news from Facebook, and I didn’t fully appreciate the impact of that decision until the aftermath of the presidential election. That’s when I realized I was getting different information than some of my friends and family, as well as some untrustworthy information. While I intrinsically realized that social media’s algorithms led to echo chambers and was scattered with misinformation and disinformation, I didn’t yet know how to navigate this digital landscape well. So, I started to actively seek out credible information about social media and news consumption, and through a freelancing job stumbled upon the News Literacy Project. This was the first step in a journey of taking control of my media diet and starting to recognize standards of quality journalism. The more I learned, the more I wanted to be a part of this movement full time.

2. Since joining NLP, what has been the most satisfying or surprising experience?

My colleagues are some of the most competent, supportive and thoughtful people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. While the work we do here is meaningful, the people make the work enjoyable. Being valued and doing something of value is the most satisfying experience.

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

Control-F is probably the tool I use most often, as it helps me find what I’m looking for quickly in web pages (and documents). I lived an embarrassing number of years without knowing hitting Control + F at the same time allows one to search for a specific word or phrase. I used to skim articles and it would take an inordinate amount of time and frustration. Now, if I’m trying to remember where I read about a specific person or idea, or if I’m trying to determine if something is mentioned in a specific page, I can hit Control-F and type in those words to quickly discern whether a text includes what I’m looking for.

4. You have authored several books, including one on information literacy, and you founded a company that created curriculum resources for authors and publishers. Have those experiences informed your work with NLP?

Absolutely. Developing curriculum resources is a mix of science and art. When I wrote my books and developed resources, I had to keep in mind the audience, the purpose and the main objectives. The same holds true with developing resources at NLP, but having the experience of creating these books and other resources first allowed me to better understand the parameters and scope of a project, in addition to little tips like how to format a document. These types of considerations are more methodical, and what I consider the “science” of curriculum development. But then comes the part that’s unique to the project, the “art.” How should we focus the story, lesson, etc.? How will we get the audience engaged? When I worked alone, I usually turned to my family and critique partners to get feedback. Here at NLP, there are numerous people on staff and in the larger education world I turn to for input at various stages of work. This is really a question about craft, a question all creatives — including educators (another part of my background) — can relate to. It’s about how we build something seemingly out of thin air, but in reality, is based on personal background, influences and feedback from respected stakeholders.

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

I love books, theater and dance. I just finished Amanda Ripley’s High Conflict, and I think it should be required reading for every adult. It discusses how we get pulled into situations that make us lose our minds, how conflict can take over and how we get out. It is probably the best nonfiction book I’ve read in a decade. When I’m not reading, I’m frequently humming songs in my head. While it’s a constant rotation, showtunes from Hamilton and Wicked often enter that space. I love going to musicals, and my idea of a perfect vacation involves lots of Broadway shows. It would not be out of the ordinary to catch me dancing just about anywhere to these songs or others (even if they’re only playing in my head). Growing up, I took tap, jazz, ballet and lyrical. In college, I started line dancing. Later in life I tested out West Coast Swing, and most recently, Salsa! I’m down with anything that has a good beat.

6. Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat?

Definitely team dog. Olli has been a steady companion for almost 17 years, going for walks and keeping me company while I work. We rescued Mara, most likely a Staffordshire terrier, in 2020 during the pandemic. Both dogs love to go to the dog park and try to sneak food, and both are very sweet.

7. And last, but not least, what item do you always have in your fridge?

Cream cheese because my family eats lots of bagels with cream cheese.

Alicia Shepard’s legacy as a ‘journalist’s journalist’ and news literacy champion

The vantage point from which journalist Alicia C. Shepard witnessed the world was both stunningly heartfelt and sharply intelligent — a filter that colored her career, her life, and her extensive work as one of the earliest classroom volunteers for the News Literacy Project.

“She was a journalist’s journalist,” said NLP Founder Alan C. Miller. “She was smart, tough and uncompromisingly honest.”

Shepard died April 1 from lung cancer. She was 69 and is survived by her husband, David Marsden, and son, Cutter Hodierne, from her first marriage.

Known to friends as “Lisa,” she served as NPR ombudsman from 2007 to 2011. By then, her byline was well known from her work at Scripps League Newspapers, the San Jose Mercury News, and the American Journalism Review. Her book, Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate, further secured her position as a thought leader in the industry.

Grace under pressure

A few years after NLP’s founding in 2008, Shepard met Miller and became one of scores of journalists to enthusiastically volunteer to go into middle and high schools in the Washington D.C., region, New York City and Chicago for the organization’s foundational classroom program.

“We told the journalists to think of the students as consumers of news and other information and to give them the tools to determine what to trust, what to share and what to act on,” Miller said. “Lisa totally got this.”

This was never more evident than the day she visited Bethesda Chevy Chase High School in a Maryland suburb of Washington, where, by all accounts, Shepard showed incredible grace under pressure.

The class proved to be an ordeal as two of the students were so disruptive, they were sent  home.

“Lisa was not thrown. She didn’t miss a beat,” Miller said. “She sought to bring them into the discussion and proceeded with her presentation that day, and beyond, with the intensity and intelligence that were her trademarks.”

Shepard’s involvement had a significant impact on Darragh Worland, who had just joined NLP as coordinator of the New York City classroom program and witnessed firsthand Shepard’s skillful handling of the challenging classroom situation.

“The Venn diagram between skills inherent in journalists and those in teachers overlaps considerably,” said Worland, who is now NLP’s senior vice president of creative strategy. “A lot of it is explaining complex concepts, breaking them down. She brought that sort of heft to the organization.”

Dispatches at sea

Shepard earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from George Washington University in 1978 and began her career as a journalist in the Washington bureau of Scripps League Newspapers.

Following a move to California and five years as a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, she and her first husband sold their belongings and purchased a boat, embarking on what would become a three-year journey in the South Pacific with their 9-month-old son.

Throughout the trip, Shepard filed dispatches with the Mercury News and The Washington Post. Then, after two years as a teacher in Japan, she returned to the United States, settled in Arlington, Virginia, and continued writing, taking on such controversial topics as the use of anonymous sources and lucrative speaking fees for journalists for the American Journalism Review.

In 2002, she earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and that same year, co-authored Running Toward Danger: Stories Behind the Breaking News of 9/11 for the Newseum, commemorating the work of journalists covering the 2001 terrorist attack.

“She embodied the highest ideals of a standards-based news organization,” Worland said. “To have someone like her speaking on behalf of NLP and educating students is one of the reasons the organization has the esteem that it does.”

A natural educator

Shepard was a natural educator. Over the years, she taught at Georgetown University, American University, Duke University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, the University of Arkansas, and California Polytechnic State University.

She was a longtime proponent of the need to increase diversity in journalism. She volunteered for about a decade each summer to teach students the basics of journalism through the Urban Journalism Workshop, sponsored by the Washington Association of Black Journalists.

Prior to one of her initial classroom visits for NLP, Shepard asked the teacher to instruct the students to find out everything they could about her. When Shepard asked the students what they had discovered, one named the street on which she lived, another said she currently taught at American University and a third said she had attended her high school reunion. All three statements were wrong.

“You absolutely have to check out all information and make sure it’s accurate,” Shepard told the surprised students. She then shared the journalistic maxim “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

Hodierne, 36, and a filmmaker, said this was “a prism into how she saw the world.” He recalled that she constantly asked others, “How do you know that?”

Legacy Society bequest

Beyond her presence in the classroom, Shepard demonstrated support for NLP in other ways. In 2012, she brought her talents to a cooperative project with the American Library Association and subsequently traveled to Beirut, Lebanon to explore creating a news literacy training program at several universities in collaboration with the ALA. She also wrote about NLP and media literacy.

Marsden, Shepard’s longtime partner whom she married in 2021, said that her work with NLP was a logical extension of a career focused on journalism and ethics and education. “She always seemed to come back to news literacy,” he said. “She felt very proud of the way [NLP] was growing and expanding.”

In 2014, Shepard became a monthly donor to NLP, a process that continued until her passing — making hers one of the longest-running commitments in the history of the organization. She is recognized as a member of NLP’s Legacy Society as well, after having bequeathed a portion of her estate to the organization.

“Lisa engaged, inspired, and informed scores of educators and students as a passionate advocate for news literacy,” Miller said. “Her generous bequest will now support NLP’s work as the final piece of her meaningful legacy with us.

Learning news literacy from a fresh perspective lessons from our popular PitchIt! student contests 

With misinformation, doctored images, and AI-generated misleading photos and videos spreading on social media, young people need news literacy skills now more than ever. For the past three years, an essay contest sponsored by the News Literacy Project has encouraged students to fact-check online content and seek out credible sources, helping them become responsible and informed news consumers.

The PitchIt! student essay competition challenges students to write short essays in response to one of six prompts using a news event as a focus. Students need to think through questions that address topics such as First Amendment protections for the press, how news consumers can fact-check statements from public figures, why sharing reliable information is a civic responsibility and the consequences of spreading misinformation online.

Once students have completed their essays, each participating school and/or educator chooses middle school and high school entries to submit. Ambassadors from NewsLitNation® or NLP’s staff review the submissions, awarding first through third place for the essays. The selected students then move to the “pitch” phase, presenting ideas, arguments and examples from their essays to a panel of professional journalists, who provide real-time feedback and select the grand prize winners.

The Colorado PitchIt! State Championship, held May 15 and hosted by The Colorado Sun, included, from left: Political consultant Tyler Sandberg, Jennifer Brown of The Colorado Sun, Colorado State Sen. Lisa Cutter, Sandra Fish of The Colorado Sun, student Van Dao, educator Raylene Kaufman, and students Adriana Ramirez-Diaz and JoLene Urioste. Photo credit: Miriam Romais, the News Literacy Project.

PitchIt! was launched in 2020 by Florida NLP ambassador Monica Valdes and has grown each year since then, said Miriam Romais, NewsLitNation director. NLP partnered with Miami-Dade County Public Schools for previous contests and teamed up this year with The Colorado Sun and the Colorado Language Arts Society for a first in-person PitchIt! event to award a state champion title. NLP is hoping to expand the contest again in 2024, Romais said, giving more young news consumers hands-on experience accurately assessing the news in a complex information landscape.

“Being assigned the PitchIt! essay is just the start of the students’ thinking process, involving research, fact-checking, credible sourcing and critical thinking skills,” Romais said. The news literacy prompts provide the opportunity for students to work closely with their teachers to produce original analyses and fresh perspectives on their chosen topic. Then, when selected students get to the grand prize stage, “they must distill their ideas further to present their concepts to a panel of journalists for live feedback,” Romais said.

Citing sources to support facts

This year’s contest, held in May, drew some 350 students and 14 of their teachers from Colorado, Florida and New York and one county in Pennsylvania. Thirty-one students made it to the finalist stage. Of those, 13 appeared before a panel of journalists to distill their essays into three-minute oral presentations.

In an entry illustrated with maps and detailed images to drive home her points, Miami 10th grader Saffron Carson highlighted coverage of figures as disparate as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and singer Courtney Love when responding to the prompt, “How can we become responsible consumers and producers of news and information?” Saffron had a warning for all: “Sources that are found to provide unreliable information of any kind are likely to lose their credibility. … Distrust is not only limited to mass media outlets. … By spreading unreliable information, individuals are putting their own credibility at stake.” Saffron earned the grand prize from her state.

Students were judged in part on their use of sources to support their facts — a key element of credibility in reporting. Van Dao (pictured left), a 10th grader from Colorado, explored misinformation surrounding the Feb. 3 freight train derailment in Ohio. Debunking a TV personality’s commentary that, as Van wrote, “focuse[d] on the consumers’ emotion” rather than facts, Van cited accurate coverage by The Associated Press and NPR and referred to FactCheck.org, PolitiFact and Snopes as sites to use in trying to verify information. Van was the state champion.

Van’s teacher, Raylene Kaufman, said her student had worked both hard and smart: “Van researched longer and more complex articles on this subject. We held many writing conferences because he wanted to be sure that he was reading and writing about the information clearly.”

Romais noted that educator collaboration with participating students is a key part of the learning. “The teacher practices with them. We encourage that partnership as they work on reading, writing and public speaking skills.”

Saffron’s teacher, Renee Cantave, told NLP in an email that the contest opened the door for her to use NLP’s free news literacy resources in her teaching. “Integrating PitchIt! in my classroom has been a SPECTACULAR experience that I would not trade for the world. Seeing my students realize the power of words and access to accurate information is invaluable. The resources offered in the NewsLit community are so helpful for everyone. I hope educators take this opportunity to apply the concepts that are being taught.”

The collaboration also is reflected in students’ deeply researched and creative presentations. Stevie D. Rosenfeld, an 11th grader, chose to answer this prompt: “How do confirmation bias, stereotyping and other cognitive biases impact how we interpret events, news and information?” Her PowerPoint response included images of newspapers retrieved from archives, winning her the high school grand prize in the New York contest. She displayed headlines about the 1898 sinking of the battleship USS Maine as well as coverage of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the Black Lives Matter movement to highlight starkly different language used by various outlets to cover the events.

Recognizing biases

Miami sixth grader Naomi Celestin’s winning entry (pictured right) addressed this prompt: “Explain which news literacy skills are essential to responsible civic participation.” She wrote, “Providing reliable information should be a responsibility” — and, she noted, news consumers also are accountable for making sure a source is reliable. “Check if the source is one-sided or if the source is providing facts, not opinions.”

For her presentation, eighth grader Jorja Jackson of New York wrote about misinformation: “We all have biases, whether conscious or unconscious, but having biases doesn’t make us bad people. However, when we choose to not recognize these biases that are influenced by societal stereotypes and our upbringing, we risk not understanding the real world around us.”

Asked why she picked the topic, Jorja said in an email that this subject “truly resonated” with her in that “biases we as a society have … affect the spread of misinformation.”

It’s the second year of participation in PitchIt! for Jorja’s teacher, Terence Higginson, who named several benefits in addition to what can be gained from the year-round news literacy coursework.

“First, our students can measure their writing skills against other participants in the competition, which allows them to recognize their unique talents, while also acknowledging the tremendous talents of other writers in the competition,” Higginson said. “Another wonderful benefit is the oral portion of the competition where our students are given the opportunity to be self-reflective about their writing experiences, which is an invaluable talent for them to develop for their future academic endeavors.”

NLP news literacy ambassadors helped review the essays for accuracy, readability and creativity, handing out first-, second- and third-place awards. Those winners went to the next stage of the competition: judging by journalists who selected the grand prize for the state. Grand prize winners earned gift cards or trophies.

“For those interested in participating in PitchIt! next year,” said Romais, “consider contacting your local news literacy ambassador. Or become one!”


  • Colorado State Champion: Van Dao, high school; teacher: Raylene Kaufman
  • Florida Grand Prize winners: Naomi Celestin, middle school; teacher: Tai-Li Frazer.
    Saffron Carson, high school; teacher: Renee Cantave
  • New York Grand Prize winners: Jorja Jackson, middle school; teacher: Terence Higginson. Stevie D. Rosenfeld, high school; teacher: Brittany Kaminski
  • Pennsylvania-Allegheny County Grand Prize winner: Amya Wise, high school; teacher: Deborah Domingues-Murphy

Contest jurors

Allegheny County, Pennsylvania:

  • Anya Litvak, energy reporter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • Arturo Fernandez, assistant managing editor, visuals and interactive, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


  • Tamoa Calzadilla, editor in chief, Factchequeado
  • Sommer Brugal, K-12 education reporter, Miami Herald

New York:

  • Tandy Lau, public safety reporter, New York Amsterdam News
  • Jessica Gould, education reporter, WNYC
  • Lily Rothman, managing editor, Time


  • Jennifer Brown, co-founder and reporter, The Colorado Sun
  • Sandra Fish, reporter, The Colorado Sun
  • Lisa Cutter, Colorado state senator
  • Tyler Sandberg, political consultant

NLP’s news literacy ambassadors and event organizers:

NLPeople: Natalie Quan, senior manager of database operations

Natalie Quan
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

This is part of a series that introduces you to the people behind the scenes at the News Literacy Project.

1. Can you tell us what brought you to NLP?

I came to NLP for a few different reasons, the main one being that I care immensely about facts and truth. If we don’t have those, what do we really have at all? If we can’t agree on reality, how are we supposed to experience or accomplish anything meaningful? Facts are the foundation for a functional society. Truth can be healing and transformative. Further, I think facts and truth are inextricable with justice and equity, and those are very important values to me personally.

2. Since joining NLP, what has been the most satisfying or surprising experience?

Without question, the best part of working at NLP for me is my team. We operate with so much mutual respect and trust. Even in the face of chaos, we tackle challenges efficiently and effectively to keep driving the mission forward. I’ve never worked with such a competent yet humble group of people who treat one another with so much grace. And while we take our work very seriously and work incredibly hard, we always find a way to have fun doing it.

In addition, I’m continually pleasantly surprised by how much my work engages me. I’ve been at NLP for almost five years now, longer than any other job I’ve ever had. I tend to hit a wall six to eight months into a new job and feel bored once I understand the scope of my role, but I have yet to experience that here. As the organization grows, my responsibilities are constantly shifting in a way that provides stimulating new ideas, projects and challenges.

3. You practiced law for a time before moving to the world of nonprofits. What made you decide to switch?

Yes, I practiced civil litigation for two years. I did run-of-the-mill plaintiff side work at the state level — contract breaches, malpractice, an actual dog bite case. Then I did defense work on behalf of airlines, airports and aviation insurers at the federal level. I know all the ways one could get injured or worse during flight. It makes for very uplifting dinner table conversation.

I could talk ad nauseam about why I transitioned away from practicing law and the ways I think the patriarchal, Darwinian culture of the legal profession needs to change. But it ultimately came down to two desires: wanting to make a difference on a more macro scale — cliché, I know — and having a nine-to-five job instead of a five-to-nine job. I am enormously privileged to have a partner who supported this career switch, both financially and as an unwavering cheerleader. It was a journey that involved a lot of self-doubt and self-discovery, and though difficult along the way, I have never once regretted leaving the legal profession.

4. You moved to Canada a couple of years ago. Is it true that there are no rude people in Canada?

There is not an ounce (or a gram, I should say) of rudeness in Canada. Even the beavers squeak a cheerful “Hello!” and wave when you hike by their lodges.

In all seriousness, rudeness exists anywhere people exist. But Canadian politeness is real. And it’s not just politeness. My experience has been that it’s genuine empathy, a deep sense of social responsibility, and an organic sense of community. In general, it has been very interesting to observe the cultural similarities and differences between California — specifically, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area — where I spent the first 33 years of my life, and Calgary. Overall, though winters were an adjustment, the avid hiker and backpacker in me absolutely loves living here, a short drive away from the Canadian Rockies.

5. Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat?

I consider myself to be on team nature and therefore love all animals… except spiders. Sorry, I just can’t do spiders. I would rather lie in a bath of roaches, snakes or pretty much anything else that creeps or crawls.

I am especially on team dog. We have a 10-year-old Siberian husky and boxer mix named Zephyr. In her younger years, she was the best running and hiking partner I could’ve asked for. These days, she spends most of her time sleeping and eating the abundance of food that our two-year-old tosses on the floor — a pretty good retirement.

6. What one item do you always have in your fridge?

At the risk of sounding boring and basic, apples. Apples are great for any meal of the day, as a snack or even for dessert. They’re inexpensive and easy to find during all seasons of the year. You can eat them with cinnamon, nut butters, granola and so many other foods for quick, simple nutrition. Whenever my friends and I go backpacking, everyone else is eager to eat foods such as pizza or burgers when we return to civilization, and all I can think about is the satisfying crunch of a good apple.

Natalie Moore: 2023 John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year

Natalie Y. Moore
WBEZ, Chicago

Natalie Y. Moore doesn’t need to tell people how committed she is to news literacy education — her actions demonstrate it. A reporter at WBEZ in Chicago, the NPR affiliate, and a respected social issues journalist, Moore has been an engaged participant in the work of the News Literacy Project almost from the start.

In recognition of her efforts to inform disinvested communities and help young people better navigate a complex information landscape, Moore has been named NLP’s 2023 John S. Carroll Journalist of the Year.

“Her commitment to NLP and to advancing news literacy education — first in the Chicago region, then nationally — is remarkable. It is the kind of deep commitment and passion that this award was created to recognize and, more importantly, the kind of special contribution to which NLP owes its success,” said Peter Adams, NLP’s senior vice president research and design.

Moore has been engaged with NLP almost from the start, as one of its first journalist volunteers in the classroom in 2009. In 2010, she addressed an auditorium of students at one of NLP’s earliest partner schools. In 2018, she helped organize a NewsLitCamp® at WBEZ,  in partnership with the National Council for the Social Studies.

News Literacy Project is ‘essential’

“I was drawn to the News Literacy Project as a volunteer because I thought it was necessary, and I had long thought that media literacy needed to be taught,” Moore said of her lasting commitment to NLP. “The News Literacy Project was essential when it started, and it’s essential today.”

Most recently, Adams and Moore worked together on the development of NLP’s newest lesson for the Checkology® virtual classroom. “Harm & Distrust” explores the history of racist mainstream news coverage of Black Americans to draw the larger subject the legacy of harm into focus. She also serves as the on-camera guide for the lesson.

The lesson addressed problems in mainstream news coverage that resonated with her. “I felt like my community on the South Side of Chicago and other black communities were not fairly covered by the press, ”  she said, a believe that persists even now, particularly among young people. “And I thought that journalism could be a way to tell stories, like I could be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”

Moore’s reporting has tackled some of society’s thorniest issues — race, housing, economic development, food injustice and violence. Her work has been broadcast on the BBC, NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Marketplace. And she has written several books, including The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation, winner of the 2016 Chicago Review of Books award for nonfiction and a Buzzfeed best nonfiction book of 2016.

Alba Mendiola: 2023 Alan C. Miller Educator of the Year

Alba Mendiola
Cristo Rey Jesuit High School

 Alba Mendiola has had an enviable career in broadcast journalism. After working in Mexico, where she was born and raised, Mendiola came to the United States  and spent 16 years as a reporter at the Spanish-language news station Telemundo. Along the way, she won several Emmys.

Someone in her situation might understandably feel entitled to kick back a little. But Mendiola, NLP’s 2023 Alan C. Miller Educator of the Year, isn’t ready for that. Instead, at the peak of her career, she changed gears and became an educator. “I like journalism, and I like teaching,” she said. “Teaching journalism combined both passions.”

Five years ago, she began teaching Spanish and public speaking at Chicago’s Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, where students are bilingual and largely come from immigrant families of limited financial means. Recognizing that her students needed to better understand the news and be able to find accurate information and reliable sources online, she created a dual-language broadcast journalism class in 2021.

“One of the things I tell my students in the first class is, ‘Do you want to be informed or do you want to be influenced?’  Because they are two different things,” she said.

For many of her students, the stakes are high if they are unable to fully understand issues in the news or find reliable information.

“Because our students are bilingual, they sometimes are the ones who translate for their families. When they go to a doctor’s appointment, they translate. When there is something happening legally, they’re there. They are the source of information for their families. The consequences for them not getting the right information could potentially be a big problem,” she noted.

An educator committed to lifelong learning

Mendiola weaves news literacy concepts into the course curriculum, teaching  students about quality journalism and the ethics and standards they must apply to their reporting projects. She tells them: “With power comes responsibilities. Now, anybody with a cellphone can be a reporter. You need to know the ethics of being a journalist, and if you don’t, then you’re not doing good for the community.”

Students learn foundational concepts of journalism and news literacy through NLP’s Checkology® virtual classroom, including understanding how bias can slip into news coverage and recognizing their own and others’ biases. The  course also broadens their perspectives about their place in the world and what they can achieve.

And Mendiola is an ideal role model to instill an appreciation for continual learning. In May, she graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Master of Arts in teaching.

Taylor Sticha, senior manager of strategic engagement at the school, said Mendiola gives students opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have, while teaching practical and essential skills. “Working with students in class and through extracurriculars, Alba is demonstrating the importance of news and media literacy and ensuring that Cristo Rey students understand the importance of these skills and can apply them to their daily lives.”

For Mendiola, it’s all about the joy of teaching and learning. “The thing I love about teaching journalism is to see my students’ reactions when they learn something new. You plant a little seed and then you just let the seed grow.”

Ana Sesma: 2023 Gwen Ifill Student of the Year

Ana Sesma
Mill Creek High School
Hoschton, Georgia

When given the choice of researching a difficult topic or an easy one, Ana Sesma, a senior at Mill Creek High School in Hoschton, Georgia, always chooses the toughest option.

Erin Wilder, her English Language Arts teacher, said this trait is one of the reasons why Sesma stands out among her peers and why she nominated her for the 2023 Gwen Ifill Student of the Year Award.

As part of a regular news literacy assignment, Wilder’s students pick a topic and analyze articles about it. Earlier this year, Sesma decided to read about the recent mass shooting at Michigan State University. “Choosing to read about such a heavy topic when lighter and more insubstantial articles were available shows an understanding of not just its importance, but of the global nature of the story as well,” Wilder said.

In other classroom activities, Sesma also pursued studying complex issues. For example, she evaluated articles that connected teens’ financial status to their mental health and posed thought-provoking questions to classmates, demonstrating her concern for her peers and awareness of issues in the world beyond her high school.

The impact of online culture on young people is one of those issues. “Social media’s pretty toxic for body image and for mental health,” she said. Viral posts create unrealistic expectations, and “it’s really easy for you to spiral down that hole.”

A responsibility to put news literacy skills to use

Sesma knows that news literacy skills help her navigate an often-confusing information landscape. “I believe it is my responsibility to take these lessons and apply (them) to all the media I am consuming, so when I am trying to learn more, I have nearly all perspectives on the topic.”

Lessons in NLP’s Checkology® virtual classroom have given her the ability to determine the intent of different kinds of information, recognize bias in news coverage, better understand the role of algorithms in determining what shows up in her newsfeed and realize when she has been fooled by misinformation. “I’ve definitely reposted things that I didn’t fully look into, and I was like, “Oh, that’s not entirely true. Let me go delete that post, or let me go correct it in another post,’” she said.

It’s important to her that she not be part of the misinformation problem. “Being able to understand and recognize the techniques and skills in media prevents me from falling for the same tricks,” she said.

And she would like to see everyone gain the skills she’s acquired. “I would hope when people are looking at posts or looking at any media, that they take a second to critically think and take a second to say, “Okay, what is the truth in this?’”

National school librarian organization names RumorGuard to list of best digital tools

The American Association of School Librarians has named RumorGuard™, NLP’s platform that debunks viral rumors, one of its Best Digital Tools for Teaching & Learning.

Every year the AASL honors digital tools that foster innovation and collaboration, encourage exploration and participation, are user-friendly and offer information and references. Also recognized are Brown University’s Choices Programs, Discovery Education’s K-12 learning platform and National Geographic Society Educator Resources.

In October 2022, NLP launched RumorGuard, its first platform specifically for the public. RumorGuard debunks social media rumors based on five factors that help people determine the credibility of sources and information. It also provides news literacy takeaways for each post. And RumorGuard email alerts empower the public to help push back against mis- and disinformation.

While RumorGuard can be useful to all, NLP is the national leader in news literacy programs and resources for educators to use in the classroom. NLP also offers professional learning events, an online community of peers and a newsletter that covers the latest topics in news literacy. All resources and programs are free.

The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association, empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.

Tapping into kids’ creativity to teach news literacy

Educator Mary Ellen Wessels realized that she has been teaching media and news literacy across grade levels and disciplines for some time. She just never called it that.

“Honestly, it’s only fairly recently that I’ve been aware that I’m teaching media literacy, but in reflection, even when I taught 4-year-olds, I tried to include media literacy,” said Wessels, a humanities and civics teacher for grades six through eight at Gate City Charter School for the Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire, a nonprofit public charter school.

When teaching preschoolers, she would introduce basic concepts in conversations largely built around visuals. For example, her class compared differences between toy ads “for boys” and those “for girls” or looked at how TV depicted people or events compared to real life.

With middle school students, Wessels builds on their understanding of concepts from one grade to the next. Sixth graders focus on becoming more aware of how media is used, asking questions around who is telling the story and why. Seventh-graders explore how primary sources might provide two different versions of the same story. By eighth grade, her classes are studying propaganda in a historical context.

Students as media savvy creators

“I’m always trying to get students to think of themselves as creators, so I’m trying to make media literacy one of their civic duties. You need to use your media savvy,” Wessels said. “When it comes to social media, I want my students to think critically and use it for positive things.”

And, she believes news literacy can and should be taught across disciplines.

She recently wove news literacy into her eighth grade ELA classes using NLP’s Checkology® virtual classroom lesson “Power in Art: The Watchdog Role of Editorial Cartoonists.” It focuses on the history and current role of this important form of opinion journalism. Students created their own editorial cartoons based either on a line from the book Animal Farm by George Orwell or a current topic they cared about.

Visit from editorial cartoonist

Wessels then invited Signe Wilkinson, a longtime editorial cartoonist at the Philadelphia Daily News who is featured in the lesson, to a virtual classroom visit.

She has been visiting classrooms in person, and since the pandemic, virtually, for years and truly enjoys it. “Right before the pandemic, I went to a middle school in Malvern (Pennsylvania) and spoke to four or five classes in a row about cartooning generally,” said Wilkinson, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. “It was fascinating because they don’t get newspapers, so they don’t see cartoons in the way I see cartoons.”

Her classroom conversations start with a quick history of communication through visual imagery, beginning with the first cave paintings and moving on to Martin Luther, the 16th century German theologian and Protestant reformist who used illustrated engravings to reach people who couldn’t read. She also discusses the work of 19th century American cartoonist Thomas Nast and political cartoons from World War II, before sharing her own drawings.

“I don’t want it to be all about me,” says Wilkinson, whose work can be seen in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

An empowering connection

Wessels said Wilkinson was engaging, and her students made the connection between using visual art and written language to persuade people and make them think. “Many of our students are naturally visual thinkers and artists. And a lot of them identified with how she struggled to pay attention in class but always wanted to draw.”

Wilkinson told the class of the challenges she faced in establishing her career, noting that she was one of only a few women political cartoonists when she began, and the field remains male dominated. Some students were surprised by the idea of creating cartoons as a career or the possibility that they could be an activist and use their voice and art at the same time.

“It is so empowering to have students get encouragement from professionals in the field,” Wessels said.

Wilkinson boiled down her message to this: “The main thing is to let kids realize that you don’t have to just write news stories about what happens. You can use visual imagery for all sorts of things when you want to reach people in different ways, because people learn in all different ways.”

Educators: To arrange for Wilkinson to visit your classroom, contact her at [email protected]

Deterring violence through news literacy in South Central Pennsylvania

Something unusual is happening in a cluster of South Central Pennsylvania counties: Despite today’s divisive climate, people from different ideological, racial and generational backgrounds are coming together to solve some of their community’s most pressing problems.

They’re doing it, partly, by becoming more news-literate.

Led by Urban Rural Action, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing people together across divides to address common challenges, a group of more than two dozen concerned community members will work collaboratively over the next 18 months to take action to deter targeted violence in their counties. Urban Rural Action calls the participants “Uniters.”  

As part of the program, the News Literacy Project will present a series of training events to help communities learn to identify credible news sources, spot misinformation and stop its spread. NLP will also work with local partners to host four training sessions through the spring for community members across Pennsylvania.  

The group kicked off its work in Gettysburg this winter and will continue meeting, learning and working with each other through August 2024.  Participants come from Adams, Franklin, Dauphin and York counties — areas that were selected because independent risk assessments suggest they are at high risk for acts of targeted violence. Participants were chosen through an application process to ensure a group of diverse viewpoints and experiences. 

What does news literacy have to do with preventing violence? Plenty, said Joe Bubman, the founder and executive director of Urban Rural Action. 

DeMario Phipps-Smith of the News Literacy Project speaks with two members of United Rural Action's "Uniters" program.

Bubman said a significant part of his organization’s work centers on promoting constructive dialogue among groups that don’t often interact. Getting those conversations started isn’t easy, with skeptical participants often asking, “How can you dialogue with those people when we can’t even agree on facts?” Bubman said.   

“We think that has to do with misinformation,” he added. “If you’re going to have more constructive conversations, it’s going to help if community members are better equipped with news literacy skills.” 

Kira Hamman, senior director of Urban Rural Action, added that consuming misinformation can be a risk factor that contributes to people carrying out acts of targeted violence. The group defines targeted violence as physical violence aimed at people or groups because of their perceived identity or affiliation; it is intended to intimidate, coerce or bring attention to the perpetrator’s grievance.  

So, on a recent Saturday afternoon, a group of about 30 people filed into a community center in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to learn how to be more news-literate and prevent the spread of misinformation. DeMario Phipps-Smith, NLP’s senior manager of community learning, explained to the group how to tell the difference between information meant to persuade versus inform. He gave tips for analyzing news for credibility, like looking for multiple sources quoted or cited in stories. Together, the group analyzed headlines and social media posts to spot biased language.  

DeMario Phipps-Smith speaking to the "Uniters" group.

Phipps-Smith said one of the biggest takeaways participants shared was the need to check their own biases, and many realized how easy it is to get trapped in information bubbles that reinforce existing beliefs.  

Despite the thorny issues tackled in previous sessions, Phipps-Smith said that the participants concluded that their conversations about misinformation had been the most charged.  

“They were like, ‘Maybe that’s a sign,’” he said. “I think it opened people’s eyes to the misinformation crisis and just how important it is to have conversations with people who think differently than you.” 


Mark World Press Freedom Day with news literacy resources

Today marks 30 years since the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed World Press Freedom Day to commemorate the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of free press principles issued in 1991 by African journalists.

On the 30th anniversary of the designation, the U.N. is calling out threats to press freedoms around the world, including the proliferation of disinformation and misinformation, and underscoring the foundational right of free speech for all. “The right to freedom of expression, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is a prerequisite and a driver to the enjoyment of all other human rights,” according to the U.N.

But violence and intimidation directed at journalists continue to threaten their ability to do this important work. In March Russia arrested Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and detained him on false charges of espionage. The nonprofit organization Reporters Without Borders (also known as Reporters Sans Frontières, or RSF) monitors press freedoms in 190 nations and regions. Each year it releases its press freedom index, and this year the United States fell to 45th place, down three spots from 2022.

Every year, World Press Freedom Day serves as a reminder for governments to respect their commitment to press freedom, a time of reflection for journalists and other media professionals, and an opportunity for the public to recognize the impact these freedoms on their lives.

Press freedom and news literacy

And an understanding of press freedom is essential to news literacy. To mark the day, NLP is sharing a suite of free resources for educators and the public to enhance the appreciation of press freedoms and free speech and to highlight the need for continued vigilance to protect these rights.

For educators

For all

  • Test your knowledge with our quiz, So, what’s the First Amendment?
  • Check out the results of a survey of Americans’ knowledge of and appreciation for the First Amendment.
  • Learn about the United States’ ranking in the World Press Freedom Index. It might surprise you!
  • On May 3, proclaim your support for freedom of speech on social media by sharing @newslitproject posts or writing your own posts and using #PressFreedom and #WPFD2023 hashtags.

NLP founder named an Ideagen Global 2023 Power Innovator

Ideagen® Global has named NLP founder Alan C. Miller a 2023 Power Innovator. In notifying Miller of the award, Daniel F. Kerns, chief of staff and vice president of operations at the company, said: “The 2023 Power Innovators recognition focuses on an individual’s leadership in innovation, characteristics, and impact. Thank you for your contributions to your respective field, which have earned you this recognition.”

Ideagen said it is honoring Miller as a Power Innovator for his commitment to news literacy and dedication to eradicating misinformation. “A former journalist with the L.A. Times, Alan is a 2022 AARP Purpose Prize winner for his work at the News Literacy Project. Alan works with schools and individuals to give the tools to spot misinformation and evaluate the news critically. Through tools like RumorGuardTM, the News Literacy Project wants to ensure every American can spot disinformation and stop it from spreading.”

The mission of Ideagen is to create a platform for collaboration among leading corporations, non-governmental organizations and the public sector to drive innovation and find solutions for some of society’s most challenging problems.

A pioneer in the field of news literacy

Miller founded NLP in 2008 to give middle and high school educators the tools to teach their students how to separate fact from fiction in the digital age. A founder of the field of news literacy, Miller has helped raise nearly $50 million for NLP and oversaw its growth to a team of more than 40 staff members. It is now the leading provider of news literacy education in the country, and the organization is marking its 15th anniversary this year.

Miller lead NLP for 14 years, stepping down as CEO in June 2022. Watch this video to learn more.

Ambassador Connections: Meet Juan Alvarado

Learn what motivates Texas ambassador Juan Alvarado to embed news literacy in his teaching. Ambassador Connections is a series highlighting NewsLitNation Ambassadors.

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

The one event that triggered or motivated me to find a better way to teach news literacy occurred during the late months of 2020. As a high school teacher, it was common to hear my students talk to one another regarding common topics like the presidential election and other social media trends. However, they only discussed vague ideas and very often they misstated facts and quoted sources that were very questionable. It was at this point that I committed myself to educate my students, so that they could become better digital citizens. Thankfully, I discovered Newslit.org as the source to help me teach news literacy.

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

The best tip I can give other educators and our community is to never draw conclusions based on hearsay. With the waning number of credible news outlets, it is much more imperative to fact-check or compare a story by using a variety of sources. However, I strongly believe that a healthy level of skepticism is needed to keep our media and press in check, while at the same time allowing them to do their job. No single news outlet should be trusted blindly. Nonetheless, many news outlets do a good job of reporting candidly and without bias, making them credible sources.

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

For almost two years, our students were forced to learn in very different settings and unique ways. Most teachers have adapted to the changes, but getting back to the same teaching trends prior to the COVID pandemic has been a challenge. This was and has been especially true with my emergent bilingual students because they lost access to the one place where they could comfortably speak, read and write in the language they struggled with the most. Many of my students live across the border and connectivity was and still is a major concern. However, our school works hard to provide students with the tools they need. To help my students get the practice and to teach them more efficiently, I sought various digital learning platforms and programs, and among them was News Literacy. When I connected with them, I made sure to call on every student to engage with me, even if it was for just a brief moment. Since participation and engagement are the norms in my class, students know that they need to be ready to participate. Distance learning reaffirmed what I strongly believed: empathy and student accountability can be practiced at the same time if a good balance exists between them.

The one go-to de-stressor I have discovered is the ability to enjoy nature and spend as much time doing chores or tasks that involved being outdoors. I neither consider myself an avid hiker nor a gardener, but I do enjoy spending time walking along nature trails as well as tending to my garden.

4. How does being a News Literacy ambassador help your community? 

I feel that being a News Literacy ambassador has allowed me to share a very good resource that many educators and community members can use. It is not easy to live in an area that very often gets a bad reputation for being less informed or misinformed, but that is why being an ambassador has gone a long way in gaining my community’s trust. It is my goal to get not only my school but also neighboring districts to see Newslit.org as their go-to source for news literacy.

5. What lesson, topic or activity are you most excited to bring to your classroom, and why?  

I think I partially answered this question already, but the topic I feel very strongly about is how racist news coverage has left a very negative legacy. News bias has been around for a long time, but many of us are just realizing that it is an issue that has become very difficult to get rid of. I am excited to teach these units [Understanding Bias and Harm & Distrust] to my students.

NLP Note: If you would like to see these and other Checkology® lessons, please register for a free educator account, if you have not done so already.

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

I am a passionate believer in inclusivity in my classroom. My classroom is a safe zone and my students have come to expect that. For example, my students know that they are free to discuss topics in an open and respectful way. They know that literature can sometimes spark controversial yet relevant discussions, and as long as students treat each other with respect they are welcome to participate. In fact, almost every year, during our school’s teacher appreciation week festivities, I receive at least one or two letters thanking me for being an inclusive and fair teacher.

7. Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat? 

My son and daughter’s love of animals has made me a proud owner of four mixed-breed dogs. They are a handful at times, but I enjoy taking care of them.

Are you also interested in pushing back against misinformation? NLP is seeking middle and high school educators in Alabama, Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan and Texas, to join our national News Literacy Ambassador Program. Deadline is July 31. Click here for details!

NLPeople: Christina Veiga, senior director of media relations

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

Christina Veiga, senior director of media relations
New Jersey

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

I grew up in the suburbs of South Florida and spent most of my time as a kid barefoot in our backyard catching lizards or swimming in the pool.

I fell in love with journalism in high school. I needed to fill up some elective credits, and my mom suggested signing up for a journalism class because my teachers had always told me I was good at writing. I am naturally introverted but also always curious. In that class, I found that having a notebook and a story assignment were great excuses to talk to people and ask all the questions I always wondered about.

I studied journalism at Florida International University and was a reporter for more than a decade. At the Miami Herald, I covered cities large and small across South Florida and the Miami-Dade County school system. Then I joined the nonprofit newsroom Chalkbeat, where I covered education in New York City. Writing about the nation’s largest school system during the pandemic was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

The Jan. 6th insurrection left me deeply unsettled and led me to NLP. Watching the Capitol get ransacked showed the stark consequences to our democracy when society does not operate from a shared set of facts. It made me want to start an organization that would help people find credible information and avoid being misled. Instead, after a few quick Google searches, I stumbled on NLP. It was a relief to know lots of smart people were already tackling this problem, and it made me want to help spread the word so that everyone knows about and can benefit from the important work NLP does.

 2.  How have your experiences covering the Miami-Dade schools for the Miami Herald and reporting for Chalkbeat informed your work at NLP?

To have a healthy, functioning democracy, I believe that it’s vital to have a vibrant press and an education system that serves all children well. Working for NLP is a perfect blend of my career-long desire to change education and journalism for the better.

My favorite thing about being a journalist was discovering and elevating important stories. Now I get to do that for NLP. I love finding all the different stories we can tell about our work, and the inspiring things our educators are doing in classrooms across the country. I am constantly thinking about whose voices need to be heard.

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

My favorite news literacy tip is: Always consider multiple sources. This tip covers so many news literacy skills in one.

By pausing to consider multiple sources, we’re less likely to spread information that’s false. It also helps people break out of filter bubbles that just reinforce existing beliefs. You’ll be less likely to get duped by a source that’s not credible if you seek information from more than one place.

Checking multiple sources is a multi-tasking news literacy tip. It’s easy for anyone to start doing it right away.

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

I go to the beach every opportunity I have. I love swimming in the ocean, though it has been hard to get used to the cold water in the Northeast compared to South Florida. Yoga helps me feel strong and relaxed. I try to read a printed newspaper every day.

During the pandemic, my partner and I have become avid Scrabble players. We have sucked in lots of formerly reluctant family members and friends who are also now hooked.

5. Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat? Or are you pet-free?

I’ve never had a dog or cat although I consider myself an animal lover. I have some potted begonias — they’re pretty plants with spotted, multi-color leaves and hot pink flowers — but I am far from a green thumb.

When I’m ready for a pet, I’d probably adopt a dog — a big, shaggy dog that likes catching frisbees on the beach.

6.  What item do you always have in your fridge?

Berries! I eat them every day. Strawberries. Blueberries. Blackberries. Raspberries. They’re my favorite food, the perfect snack, and you don’t feel guilty eating them by the fistful.

That doesn’t mean I always eat healthy foods, though. If you had asked what I always have in the pantry, I’d say chocolate chip cookies. The crunchy kind.

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

Everything! My purse is usually bursting. I like to go on epic walks to explore new neighborhoods, so I pack a bag with all the stuff I could need while out and about. I always have band aids, sunglasses, a big water bottle, an external phone charger, some kind of snack… I could go on and on.

New Checkology® lesson explores history of racism in mainstream news

Harm & Distrust. New lesson on Checkology.

Newsrooms across the country aspire to standards and guidelines designed to minimize the influence of individual biases and to produce journalism that is fair, accurate and in the public’s interest. But for all the positive and crucial roles the press plays in American democracy, institutional news organizations also have legacies of exclusion and blatant harm that have severely eroded trust among specific groups of people.

The News Literacy Project tackles this complex but essential topic in its new interactive lesson, “Harm & Distrust,” available now for educators and students. The six-part module explores the history of racist mainstream news coverage of Black Americans as a case history to draw the larger subject of historic harm into focus. It’s hosted by veteran journalist Natalie Moore, who covers segregation and inequality for WBEZ Chicago.

The lesson begins by outlining four aspects of standards-based news coverage that, by necessity, require subjective judgments and hence more of the public’s trust: story selection, framing, tone and sourcing. Students then apply their understanding of these four concepts to a survey of historical coverage across three historical periods, exploring examples of openly racist news coverage from the Jim Crow era, the Civil Rights era and the late 20th century.

The lesson also covers the role that the Black press played in providing more accurate, urgent and critical coverage of atrocities — such as the murder of Emmett Till in 1955 — in sharp contrast to coverage by mainstream news organizations at the time.

Students also explore the findings of the 1968 Kerner Commission Report, which issued a searing indictment of the American news media’s failure to accurately represent the lived realities of Black Americans. The report’s recommendations for the media at the time bear a striking resemblance to the findings of a 2020 study by the Center for Media Engagement, which surveyed 1,000 Black Americans about mainstream news reporting on Black communities.

These documents — published more than 50 years apart — underscore the need for news organizations to increase racial diversity in newsrooms, to include Black Americans in coverage of ordinary life, and to develop relationships and sources in Black communities. In the lesson, students are asked to match similar recommendations from the Kerner Commission Report and the Center for Media Engagement’s study, underscoring the persistence of these long-standing needs.

Even as it draws attention to these continuing challenges, “Harm & Distrust” clearly acknowledges the demonstrable progress that has been made in newsrooms across the country.

The final section of the lesson looks at steps some news organizations have taken to increase newsroom diversity, including at the leadership level, and to be more accountable to the communities they serve. It explores four examples of news organizations working to take responsibility for racist historical coverage through published audits and apologies. These include the Orlando Sentinel’s audit and apology published in 2019; the Los Angeles Times’ examination of its “failures on race” published in 2020; The Kansas City Star’s 2020 apology for its history of racist coverage; and The Baltimore Sun’s sweeping apology for a multitude of past wrongs published in 2022.

Moore concludes the lesson by acknowledging that this subject is both painful and difficult, but it’s also necessary to confront if we hope to make journalism better.

“I still believe in the power of journalism to be the voice of the voiceless – to expose injustice, including racism – and bring about positive change that improves people’s lives. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have dedicated my career to doing this work.”

“Harm & Distrust” concludes with a challenge for students: to help hold news organizations accountable to their own ideals and to the practice of improving coverage in ways that ensure they serve all members of the public equally.

You can preview this important new lesson and find the learning objectives and essential questions for discussion on the “Harm & Distrust” preview page. To assign the lesson, sign in to Checkology or register for an educator account. (As a reminder, Checkology is completely free!)

Checkology lessons and associated resources were created with the generous support of our funders. 

Understanding ancient history using modern news literacy skills

Chris Bily headshotMiddle school teacher Chris Bily’s media literacy course is designed to give students the skills to become more news-literate, but it actually does much more. It bridges millennia and enhances his seventh-grade ancient history classes.

“It’s the obvious connection between critical thinking and historical thinking skills,” said Bily, a social studies teacher at Whitnall Middle School in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.

The media literacy course he created, offered as part of the school’s six-week sessions of “mini-courses,” reaches nearly 180 students, or about 90% of the seventh grade. He sees students apply what they learn to the research they undertake in his social studies classes: “How do I know where this information is coming from? How do I know what the bias is? Who is the person providing the information?”

For his media literacy curriculum, Bily uses lessons and accompanying challenges and exercises  from NLP’s Checkology® e-learning platform, as well as other resources. They include The Daily Juice newsletter for students, from the education platform The Juice, a partner of NLP.

Current media examples matter

An educator with a dozen years of experience, Bily has been teaching media literacy education for several years and has used Checkology since its launch in 2016. His students like the interactive nature of the lessons, such as “Practicing Quality Journalism,” which lets students play the role of a reporter in a simulation of a breaking news scene.

Bily also appreciates the ability to customize Checkology using the independent learner version of the lessons rather than the teacher-led option. “I’ve got all sorts of readers, all sorts of student needs. it’s more conducive to diverse learners.”

And the timeliness of lesson examples, taken from real news events, grabs his students’ interest more than a textbook might. “It’s the difference between trying to sell kids on people from 2,000 years ago who are dead than something they’re seeing now on YouTube,” he said.

Social media platforms’ use of algorithms — machine learning that surfaces specific content based on a person’s online habits — is a topic that also engages his students. On a recent school day, the topic came up in his social studies class. He told his students he typed the word “Jaguars” into a search engine, and based on his online habits, the results included the NFL team the Jacksonville Jaguars, rather than the luxury car or the big cat.

“Kids relate to that. They were talking about how what you look up changes what you’ll see in your results,” Bily said.

Making the First Amendment relevant

Similarly, he can pique students’ interest in the First Amendment, which is essential to becoming more news-literate, when he makes it relevant to their daily lives. “That’s a tough sell unless you make it about them: Can you say this in school? Can you wear that in school?”

And the 2022 Annenberg Public Policy Center survey, in which 25% of respondents could not name one of the five freedoms protected under the First Amendment, offered a chance for his students to flaunt their knowledge. “They think it’s awesome when they know more than the adults do,” he said.

Recognizing the value of Bily’s course, his district’s Teachers Leading Teachers team has asked him to put together a professional learning segment about Checkology for his colleagues. He’ll likely share that at the start of his media literacy course, he administers Checkology’s pre-assessments, which give him — and his students — insight into their familiarity with the topics. “I want them to know what they don’t know. Sometimes they get frustrated and say, ‘I don’t know what this is.’”

But by the end of the course, they know.

NLP’s National Journalism Advisory Council to deepen partnerships with newsrooms, help build trust in media

Building on its history of partnerships with journalists and news outlets, the News Literacy Project is launching its first National Journalism Advisory Council. This group of prominent leaders will help the nonpartisan education nonprofit deepen NLP’s engagement with news organizations and journalists, amplify its mission, and assist news outlets in strengthening trust with their communities.

The public’s lack of news literacy skills combined with historically low levels of trust in the news media present a dire threat to the health and stability of our democracy. Council members and NLP will work together to tackle these pressing issues.

Meaningful partnerships with journalists and news organizations have been central to NLP’s mission since the start of the organization in 2008. Award-winning reporters have served as hosts for NLP’s Checkology virtual classroom® and visited schools across America as part of the organization’s educational program. Newsrooms have served as hosts for events including NLP’s NewsLitCamps®, free training opportunities that bring together educators and practicing journalists, and have supported National News Literacy Week by donating add space to help spread NLP’s message.

Council members bring a wealth of experiences to NLP, with representatives from legacy publications in print and broadcast, members in leadership roles in pioneering digital and nonprofit media, and journalists with track records for innovation and excellence in their fields. The initial members are:

  • Nicole Avery Nichols, editor-in-chief of Chalkbeat
  • Sarabeth Berman, CEO of the American Journalism Project
  • Kim Brizzolara, documentarian, film producer and former journalist
  • Matea Gold, national editor of The Washington Post
  • Stephen F. Hayes, CEO and editor of The Dispatch, and NBC News political analyst
  • David Hiller, former president and CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, and former publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times
  • Bill Keller, former correspondent, executive editor and columnist at The New York Times, and founding editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project
  • Scott Kraft, editor-at-large at the Los Angeles Times
  • Indira Lakshmanan, global enterprise editor at the Associated Press
  • Joy Mayer, director of Trusting News
  • Tim Miller, writer-at-large at The Bulwark, MSNBC political analyst, and host of “Not My Party” on Snapchat
  • Tracie Potts, executive director of the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College, and former national correspondent at NBC News Channel
  • Emily Ramshaw, co-founder and CEO of The 19th*, and former executive editor of The Texas Tribune
  • Peter Sagal, radio personality, author and host of NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! 
  • Adam Symson, president and CEO of The E.W. Scripps Company
  • Pierre Thomas, chief justice correspondent at ABC News
  • Amy Weisenbach, senior vice president and head of marketing at The New York Times
  • Lauren Williams, co-founder and CEO of Capital B, and former senior vice president and editor-in-chief of Vox
  • Catherine Woodward, poet and former journalist
  • Jose Zamora, chief communications and impact officer at Exile Content Studio

Understanding Black History Month is essential news literacy

The expansive legacy of Black History Month is rooted in the celebration and upliftment of African American history, culture and perseverance through unspeakable adversity. It is also deeply intertwined with our mission here at The News Literacy Project to solidify a future founded on facts. First established in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, Black History Month began as Negro History Week, coinciding with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Woodson knew first-hand the power of credible information as a transformational tool. As a Black man and the direct descendant of former slaves, his options to obtain early education were limited.

So, even while working in coal mines and caring for his family’s small farm in West Virginia, he taught himself, eventually earning undergraduate degrees from Berea College in Kentucky and the University of Chicago, and, finally, a Ph.D. from Harvard University. His career blossomed as he established himself as a celebrated teacher, school administrator, researcher and champion of Black history and culture.

As Woodson’s influence grew, so did the impact of Black History Month. Black scholars, journalists and community members alike deepened their knowledge and sharing of crucial American history. This, in turn, encouraged allies across all races and ethnicities to support and uplift the myriad contributions of African Americans throughout our nation’s history.

Today, NLP celebrates this critical month in American history by re-emphasizing the role that accurate, credible information plays in our perception of the news media and our trust in its work. Most importantly, we examine how that trust can vary across communities, especially among those that have been historically marginalized and underrepresented.

We invite you to check out the following new resources as you celebrate the indelible legacy and impact of African Americans throughout this month:

Watch this year’s National NewsLitCamp® event, featuring a special conversation on the legacy of media distrust among communities of color, with Pulitzer-prize winning author and journalist Wesley Lowery, award-winning journalist Natalie Moore and Julia E. Torres, the director of special projects at EduColor.

Explore NLP’s new Checkology® lesson designed for educators, called “Harm & Distrust.” It is a master class in how mainstream news organizations have failed to represent Black communities accurately and equitably, and what they are doing about it now.

Browse our Flipboard collection on Black History Month, which highlights modern Black journalists’ work and influence in today’s news media landscape.

Thanks to you, our mission to realize a news-literate future continues to grow. Please join us in honoring the contributions of Black Americans this month as we strive to build an equitable information landscape for all.

NLPeople: Dan Evon, senior manager of education design

Dan Evon, Chicago

This is part of a series that introduces you to the people behind the scenes at the News Literacy Project.

1. Can you tell us a little about your background and how your experience as a fact-checker at Snopes led you to NLP?

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and now live on the city’s southside. I worked a variety of writing gigs after graduating from the University of New Orleans, (I covered everything from motorcycle racing to breaking news stories), but my main focus has been in the field of fact-checking.

Fact-checking work can be very rewarding, but it can also feel a bit like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a never-ending mountain. Every time a rumor is debunked, another pops up to take its place. And worse, these rumors can rack up millions of views while the subsequent fact checks reach a substantially smaller audience. The work of fact-checkers is vitally important, but it’s also not enough. I joined the News Literacy Project because the only way we’re going to turn the tide against the endless stream of baseless claims, fake photos, and political propaganda, is by teaching people how to do some of this fact-checking work themselves.

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

The tool I use the most is a chrome web extension called the Fake news debunker by InVID and WeVerify that allows me to perform a reverse image search on a variety of sites (TinEye, Google Images, Yandex, etc…) in just a few clicks. I use it for work to debunk misinformation, but it is also a great tool to learn more about viral content. Lots of photos and videos circulate online attached to just a few words. With a few clicks, I can dig a little deeper and learn some cool new facts.

I think the biggest advice or guidance I try to follow in my daily life is to recognize when my thought process is being clouded (or blocked) by emotions. When something makes us laugh or cry or become angry, it’s easy to let our guard down and believe something just because we want it to be true. When we learn to recognize those moments, telling fact from fiction gets a lot easier.

3. In college, one of your majors was film history. Can you name your favorite film or films of all time?

That’s a tough one. My favorite film of the last year is probably Everything, Everywhere, All At Once because it really is something that is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. But of all time? Spotlight and Shattered Glass are two great movies about journalism, I love big action movies like Jurassic Park, have a bit of a soft spot for rom-coms (I am keenly aware of when a cheesy movie is trying to manipulate my emotions, yet also helpless to stop it), and really enjoy silly comedies like Billy Madison. I’m going to say my all-time favorite movie is The Devil Wears Prada.

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

The COVID-19 pandemic really had an impact on my hobbies. I started birding, playing disc golf and video games. Three activities that weren’t really in my life prior to 2020, and three activities that I now can’t do without.

5. Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat? Or are you pet-free?

I have been on team bunny, team ferret, team cat, and team turtle, but I have traditionally played for team dog. Unfortunately, I am team no pet at the moment but here’s a photo of my late dog Tucker.

6. What item do you always have in your fridge?

I’m going to give two answers here. The first is cheese. All sorts of cheese. I’d estimate that I now have at least seven varieties of cheese in my fridge. And second, some sort of flavored coffee creamer, because life is too short for bitter coffee.

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

I carry a sling bag just about everywhere I go. It has a battery charger, water bottle, hand sanitizer, notebook, pens and a New Literacy Project-branded tote bag in it all times, with some extra space for whatever I’m reading, which right now is a book called Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.

National NewsLitCamp®️: Trust and Credibility | Recordings

NewsLitCamp®: Trust and Credibility was held on Jan. 27, 2023 as part of National News Literacy Week.

NewsLitCamp: Trust and Credibility was a free, virtual event hosted by the News Literacy Project in partnership with NBCUniversal News Group! It was designed to help educators teach students to analyze news and information with a skeptical — not cynical — eye. The professional learning highlighted: 

  • What it means for news to inform us credibly.  
  • How persuasion can and should be credible.  
  • What it means for a source to be trustworthy.  

Sessions started at 9 a.m. ET Jan. 27 and continued throughout the day. They included insights from journalism professionals and news literacy and media experts nationwide, along with the opportunity to connect and share directly with others. 

View speakers and panelists here.

Sessions and recordings

Welcome to NewsLitCamp and opening session: What does it mean to be “news-literate”? 

In this webinar, we provided an overview of the news literacy concepts and skills that students need in order to be reliably informed, such as recognizing the difference between news and other types of information, including opinion and propaganda. We used the standards of quality journalism to identify credible news sources and common types of misinformation. 


Introduction to resources from the News Literacy Project 

Join experts from The News Literacy Project for a session highlighting NLP-developed resources to introduce and incorporate key news literacy concepts in your classroom. This session was facilitated by Shaelynn Farnsworth, Senior Director of Education Partnership Strategy. 


How can journalists call out misinformation without being perceived as biased and losing the public trust? 

Join us for a panel of NBCUniversal News Group journalists, moderated by Ali Velshi, MSNBC host, as they discussed how journalists today approach balancing credibility and persuasion, debunking misinformation and maintaining public trust. Featured panelists included Tom Llamas, NBC News NOW anchor; Brandy Zadrozny, NBC News senior reporter; and Chris Scholl, NBC News Standards senior vice president. The discussion was followed by a live audience Q&A.        


How news organizations ensure fair representation on air  

How does a news organization determine who should appear on a panel discussing hot button issues to ensure a fair representation of views? Join us for a panel discussion focused on how newsrooms ensure credible, fair representation of topics on air and how they can combat misinformation. Moderated by Jesse Rodriguez, MSNBC vice president of Editorial and Booking, this panel included Bill Hinkle, coordinating producer of NBC News NOW; Lori Ann LaRocco, CNBC News senior editor of guests; Andre Brooks, NBC News NOW executive producer; and Nina Sen, director of NBC News Standards. It was followed by a live audience Q&A.  


How can the news media repair its trust problem with marginalized communities?  

What factors have led to a deterioration of trust when it comes to the media and communities they cover? Moderated by NBC News NOW Correspondent Zinhle Essamuah, this afternoon panel addressed timely questions about the relationship between traditional news media and marginalized communities, what journalists are doing to address the disconnect and more. Featured panelists included Guad Venegas, NBC News correspondent; Jamie Nguyen, NBC News Consumer Investigations senior producer; Chiara Sottile, NBC News reporter and producer; and Belén Smole, Philadelphia’s Telemundo 62 anchor. The discussion was followed by a live audience Q&A. 


Harm & Distrust: Why communities of color often have misgivings about mainstream news  

Marginalized communities have not always received fair coverage from legacy news organizations. In fact, throughout American history, many groups have suffered demonstrable harms from biased, one-sided or otherwise problematic coverage. While significant progress has been made, newsrooms still lack diversity, sometimes fail to scrutinize official narratives and struggle to equally serve the information needs of all members of the public. 

The News Literacy Project released a Checkology® virtual classroom lesson titled “Harm & Distrust” that examines the damage caused by mainstream coverage of Black Americans, and the legacies of distrust this has produced. To launch this new lesson, we hosted a virtual conversation to explore these issues and look at how today’s journalists have made strides but still have a way to go. Joining us are Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wes Lowery; lesson host and WBEZ reporter Natalie Moore; Peter Adams, NLP’s senior vice president of research and design; and moderator Julia Torres, director of special projects at EduColor.   

To keep our democracy strong, we need to restore trust in news media

Civic Marketing Manager, News Literacy Project

Americans are politically polarized, cynical about long-respected institutions and disappointed with elected leaders at the local, state and national levels. What’s driving these trends? I believe a sweeping lack of trust is a significant factor.

Trust is an essential element to strong personal, professional and societal relationships. Without it, relationships break down, often with unfortunate consequences. Research bears this out. The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer found that nearly six in 10 respondents automatically distrust something until they encounter evidence of its credibility. And nearly two thirds said we can no longer have constructive, civil discourse about important issues. The researchers noted, “when distrust is the default — we lack the ability to debate or collaborate.”

The public’s wariness is understandable and misinformation is a major factor. In the 2020 Northwestern University Medill Trust in U.S. News Media study, 82% of those surveyed expressed concern about discerning fact-based information from falsehoods. Three-quarters of respondents in the Edelman study worried about misinformation being used as a weapon.

News organizations and journalists are the focus of much cynicism. Trust in news fell in half the countries surveyed for the 2022 Reuters Institute Digital News Survey, with the U.S. at the bottom with just 26% of respondents trusting the news. And 46% of Edelman respondents found journalists credible, making them the least trusted of societal leaders in the report, barely ahead of government leaders, who gained the confidence of just 43% of respondents.

When trust waivers, so does democracy.

Once trust is gone, it’s tough to regain. But it’s critical that we all work to restore it. That’s because public trust and a news media industry that does its job well go hand in hand in protecting our democracy. That’s why my organization, the News Literacy Project (along with The E.W. Scripps Company), is focusing on trust in newsrooms and news coverage during our fourth annual National News Literacy Week (Jan. 23-27). News literacy is the ability to identify credible new sources so you know what information you can trust, share and act on.

The acceptance of facts is central to productive discourse and the functioning of our institutions. When we can’t agree on a common set of facts and credible sources, that cynicism cascades into distrust of institutions, decision-makers and governing bodies. The result is a weaker democracy.

Then there’s this: Distrust is simply bad for us. A 2021 study at the University of Bonn in Germany found that lack of trust in others is associated with chronic loneliness.

Restoring trust: It’s up to the press and the public.

Trust is a two-way street. To repair this credibility gap between the public and the press, both members of the media and news consumers must act.

News organizations must keep the public well-informed and cover the issues that communities care about most. Newsroom leaders need to clearly identify what is opinion, analysis, or straight news and explain how their newsroom decides what stories to cover and how to cover them.

Improving newsroom diversity is imperative to better reflect the community. While nobody is perfect, being transparent and fixing errors promptly and prominently goes a long way in maintaining credibility.

News consumers are the other half of the equation. We have responsibilities, too. Pay attention to what’s happening in your community. Subscribe to a local news outlet to ensure your town doesn’t become a “news desert.” Hold news organizations accountable. When they make a mistake or coverage falls short, call them on it. Be civically engaged. Learn about the issues important to you and vote.

Most importantly, become more news-literate.

News literacy is key.

What does it mean to be news-literate? This nonpartisan approach to media literacy teaches people how to think about news and other information, not what to think. It provides an understanding and appreciation of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in a democracy, and it emphasizes a healthy skepticism — not cynicism — about the information we encounter.

There are easy ways to learn the skills you need to navigate the news more confidently, protect yourself — and your friends and family — from being misled, and push back against the kind of false and misleading information that eats away at the public’s trust in news. You can learn how to identify credible news sources, spot red flags that often accompany misinformation, and build other news literacy skills at NewsLiteracyWeek.org.

Closing the credibility gap is crucial to the health of our democracy. Trust me on this.

Alee Quick is the civic marketing manager for the News Literacy Project and a former newspaper editor in Illinois. She may be reached at [email protected].

Jan. 6 insurrection a game-changer for news literacy educators

Photo credit: Molly Boyle

The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was a watershed moment for high school teacher Anne-Michele Boyle.

Until then, she’d spent only a few days teaching media literacy to students in her Global Citizenship course. But when she and her students watched events unfold live during remote learning, she immediately reworked her curriculum.

“I scrapped my entire lesson plan for February and devoted that month to media literacy,” recalled Boyle, who also teaches AP World History at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago. “January sixth illustrated to me how fragile democracy is and how dangerous misinformation can be.”

After the uprising, Boyle spent months developing a full media literacy curriculum for the roughly 90 juniors and seniors in her class. She now spends all of January — and often part of February —teaching this subject.

Inundated with information

That same day in Mason, Ohio, Jocelyn Burlew was teaching seventh and eighth grade history online. As soon as her students logged in, they began asking questions about what was happening. “These questions paired perfectly with our study of the Constitution, particularly the powers of the president as well as our rights and responsibilities as we discussed the Bill of Rights,” she said.

She, too, saw an opportunity to provide her students with a news literacy lesson in real time, noting that they were inundated with videos, memes, news stories, eyewitness accounts and more.

“We had to slow down and really start to analyze what we were seeing and hearing, and then take what we knew about the Constitution, the role of the media, as described in the First Amendment, to really start to grasp what was happening and understand the difference between types of information and how to vet it,” said Burlew, a news literacy ambassador for the News Literacy Project, who teaches in the Mason City School District in suburban Cincinnati.

She uses NLP’s educator newsletter The Sift® and the Checkology® e-learning platform to weave news literacy into her classes. “I initially used Checkology’s ‘InfoZones’ lesson to introduce my students to the various types of information they may come across. I then used these concepts in their study of ancient Athens and Sparta.”

That foundation helped them better understand the uprising and the role of a free press in a democracy. She hopes her students take away from her class the understanding “that we have to be thoughtful and critical consumers of media and hold news outlets to the standards of quality journalism.”

Students share what they learn

Photo credit: Molly Boyle

To keep her course current, Boyle forgoes a textbook and brings in new resources each year. She also uses educator resources on NLP’s website to help students build essential skills, including lateral reading, reverse image searches, evaluating sources and geolocation.

“We examine the extent to which the sources we use adhere to standards of quality journalism, why standards matter and why journalists have a lot to lose if they don’t follow those standards. We compare this to the news posts students see on TikTok,” she said.

Boyle also teaches Checkology’s “Misinformation,” “Conspiratorial Thinking” and “Understanding Bias” lessons.

As her students begin to recognize the real dangers of misinformation they can act on their knowledge. For example, as part of a final project, some students created news literacy quizzes on the game-based learning app Kahoot! for family get-togethers. They wanted to teach older relatives how to spot conspiracy theories on social media and to recognize mis- and disinformation. “They’re taking the skills they learn and reaching more people,” she said.

And she’s watched their understanding of the problem evolve. “Before we started the [media literacy] unit, most did not realize how scary  January sixth was. It is essential for all people to understand the connection between having a strong democracy and strong media literacy skills.”

Personal impact

Burlew has had similar experiences. “In general, students love having the knowledge and power to debunk what they see and hear.”

And for Boyle, the insurrection also had a personal impact. A month prior she had applied to the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Immediately after that day she got permission to resubmit her application with a new focus on a plan to improve media literacy. She won the fellowship.

Both educators want their students to recognize the value of their newfound skills. “First and foremost, media literacy is absolutely essential to a strong democracy. Period,” Boyle said.

2022, the year in misinformation: News literacy takeaways

2022 Misinformation Year in Review

In 2022, misinformation continued to spread on social media and make its mark on the news cycle. From “cheap fakes” to miscaptioned videos to conspiratorial claims and rumors made entirely out of whole cloth, we review some of the biggest misinformation claims of the year and offer tips on how to better navigate social media in the new year.

1. Breaking news rumors

Even during the earliest stages of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, propagandists swarmed social media to muddy the waters and alter the narrative. The driving focus behind many of these rumors was to downplay the severity of the attack by claiming the war was somehow faked or staged. Social media posts used miscaptioned news footage and altered news reporting, and behind-the-scenes movie footage that had nothing to do with the war to support the false claims.

Other purveyors of misinformation took a different approach, connecting the conflict to a wide range of conspiracy theories, including that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was related to billionaire George Soros and that the United States was operating secret biolabs across Ukraine. Video game footage was also passed off as “shocking” evidence of military attacks, and a spate of rumors amplified Russian disinformation narratives, including false claims that the Ukrainian resistance is made up of Nazis.

NewsLit takeaway: Breaking news events — especially those that occur in foreign countries and during chaotic times in which information is scarce and the situation is in flux — provide ample opportunities for purveyors of misinformation to spread false claims. Russia, arguably the world’s leading producer of disinformation, has a strong interest in manufacturing confusion and doubt about its invasion. Be cautious about sharing information during breaking news cycles before it has been confirmed by credible sources.

2. Anti-vaccination falsehoods

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a rise of anti-vaccination sentiments that persisted in 2022. Vaccine denialist narratives that were prominent in 2020 and 2021 gained more mainstream traction as they were amplified by celebrities and repackaged into slick pseudo-documentary films. While many of the anti-vaccine rumors that circulated in 2022 were simply rehashed versions of previously debunked claims — a nonexistent increase in athletes collapsing, bogus claims about vaccines altering DNA, misattributed celebrity deaths and a false depopulation theory — their prevalence and proliferation meant that health misinformation continued to spread.

NewsLit takeaway: Anti-vaccination rumors infected a wide range of communities, from alternative health and wellness groups seeking “natural” remedies to anti-government followers opposed to regulations and mandates. These false rumors (like many conspiracy theories) appeal to people because they seem to provide answers during times of uncertainty, but they merely shelter people from the truth. Seek out health information from credible sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

3. Election fraud allegations

Ripples from the “Big Lie” of the 2020 presidential election continued to reverberate into the 2022 midterm contests. Some social media users repackaged familiar tropes — exaggerating mundane technical problems, misrepresenting the actions of poll workers, and spreading baseless lies about election laws — to cast doubt on the process and results.

NewsLit takeaway: Despite the false claims, very few cases of voter fraud occurred during the midterms. And election fraud falsehoods didn’t have the same impact as in 2020. One reason for this may be the rise of “prebunking” — or identifying examples of rumors that users are likely to encounter as an event approaches. The News Literacy Project produced this infographic to alert people about the types of rumors they would likely see during the midterms.

4. Economic conspiracies

The world in 2022 continued to experience interruptions in the supply chain that contributed to food and product shortages and inflation, while demand and supply imbalances led to higher gas prices. The effects of Russia’s war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic rippled throughout the global economy as well. Some social media users exploited the issues by catastrophizing their impact and spreading falsehoods about their causes. Alarmist falsehoods politicizing shortages in infant formula circulated, as did baseless claims that the U.S. was on the brink of running out of diesel fuel. Conspiracy theorists also pushed absurd claims that a government cabal was intentionally causing shortages — by representing videos of crops being burned or cows dying in a heat wave to contend these resulted from deliberate state actions.

NewsLit takeaway: Partisans and conspiracy theory communities often spin and exaggerate real world events to fit their own agendas. Following standards-based news organizations on social media can help mitigate the spread of these misleading takes. Practicing lateral reading also helps avoid conspiratorial rabbit holes.

5. Altered audio

One popular form of misinformation in 2022 involved genuine video clips with unrelated pieces of audio added to them. Anti-Biden chants and jeers were added to videos of first lady Jill Biden at a football game, former President Barack Obama at a rally, and President Joe Biden during a visit to London for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. Digital software capable of impersonating celebrity voices was also used to spread misinformation, such as this doctored video of former President Donald Trump appearing to praise Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, shortly after West showed support for Nazis, and this video of Elon Musk seeming to mock “crybaby liberals” shortly after taking over Twitter.

NewsLit takeaway: Deepfakes tend to attract attention, but purveyors of misinformation also can create quick and convincing videographic fakes with simple manipulations of context, or by merely swapping out the audio. These altered videos can be detected by tracking down the authentic source footage, but it’s a step few people take as they scroll through their feeds, especially when the message resonates with their existing views and biases.

6. Fake litter boxes and anti-transgender claims

One of the biggest stories of the year never happened. A baseless, transphobic internet falsehood about (nonexistent) schools accommodating (nonexistent) students who “identify as cats” made its way into school board meetings as secondhand anecdotes, then were amplified by right-wing podcasters and pundits. Influential podcast host Joe Rogan, for example, shared a claim on his show that his friend’s wife worked at a school that was forced to install such a litter box to accommodate a student; he later retracted the story because there was no evidence that it was real. Litter boxes quickly became a modern-day urban legend.

NewsLit takeaway: Confirmation bias can be incredibly powerful. The right-wing media ecosystem regularly highlighted controversies over transgender people using bathrooms, competing in sports and choosing their own pronouns. Anger and fear over this issue intensified in some partisan circles and paved the way for implausible scenarios (a school installing a litter box for a child to use instead of a bathroom) to be credulously believed and repeated as a political talking point. Be sure to check other sources of credible information before sharing a viral or controversial post.

7. Flat Earth and climate-change lies

Even as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope captured images of distant galaxies, social media users were busy spreading rumors that the Earth was flat. Even more disconcerting, there was a general rise in climate misinformation in 2022, including false claims maligning electric cars, a fabricated magazine cover that indicated climate change is a hoax and accusations that the media was doctoring weather maps to sow panic.

NewsLit takeaway: Misinformation relies on the rejection of credible and authoritative sources. This is exemplified in the flat Earth conspiracy theory and, more importantly, in the rejection of overwhelming evidence of Earth’s changing climate. To follow climate change developments, seek out information from standards-based news organizations and credible science sources.

Making the connection between media literacy and democracy

From the perspective of 2022, Mary Robb and her colleagues look like fortune tellers. Back in 2001 — before 9/11 conspiracy theories, viral memes and QAnon — the educators created a Democracy and Media Literacy course.

“We were teaching civics and figured it made no sense to teach students how to be citizens without teaching them how to navigate the media,” recalled Robb, who teaches social studies at Andover High School in Andover, Massachusetts.

She and her fellow teachers began by giving students a strategy for evaluating the credibility of news and other content borrowed from another colleague,  Kathryn Reusch. It’s called WAIL:

  • W: for the most powerful words use in an article.
  • A: for adjectives and adverbs and what they might indicate about bias.
  • I: for the information included.
  • L : for the information left out.

“We want to help students become active rather than passive news consumers. What they learn in our class they use every single day,” Robb said.

Senior Nicholas Leonard, who took the class last spring, said learning to analyze news articles has helped him think more critically. “We’d take a story and break it down— right wing, left wing and centrist sources — and then piece the story together to get to the facts. We stripped away the bias.”

Among the resources Robb and her colleagues use to keep the classwork relevant and engaging is NLP’s free weekly newsletter for educators, The Sift®. “It’s this wonderful, serendipitous situation. We’ll be discussing a topic, say voter fraud, and you’ll have a piece on the topic,” she said. “We’ll use The Sift to understand the necessity to be mindful consumers of news, to pause to think.”

The students go through The Sift item by item, pausing after each one to write down their thoughts. “Now it is second nature. They are much more mindful news consumers,” she said.

Meaningful conversations

Senior Siham Berty took Mary Robb’s Democracy and Media Literacy course last year and said, “she made sure we had access to a wide range of sources, so we always felt like were getting the truth. And we felt like we could voice our opinions.”

Senior Siham Berty took Robb’s class last fall and said she now looks at information differently. “If you asked me a year or two ago, I was 10 times more likely to believe what I saw on social media. Now I take it with pinch of salt. I don’t look at the first thing Google gives me. I go through other news sources.”

One of Berty’s favorite elements of the course was the meaningful interaction with other students. “Her (Robb’s) class really focuses on group discussion. She made sure we had access to a wide range of sources, so we always felt like were getting the truth. And we felt like we could voice our opinions.”

Leonard said that interaction was useful in other ways as well. “I think it really helped in finding common ground. We’d research a story, then break off into groups and come together and talk about it. I think that really helped in promoting compromise and understanding.”

The discussions were vital to understanding the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising at the U.S. Capitol. “We had to talk about it because of all the attempts to spin the events. Some of them (the students) got angry at that,” Robb said.

She asked students how they heard about the riots and reacted to the news. Then she had students apply the WAIL process to the information they consumed. They realized how different the facts about the event could be, based on the accounts they read. They also broke into groups where students of all political stripes felt comfortable and empowered to speak, Robb said.

To help students understand the impact of social media on their lives, they are asked to take a break from all platforms for one school week. They keep track of what it’s like to be offline each day. Not surprisingly, some feel like they are missing out on what other kids are talking about. But others notice differences in themselves. One student told Robb, “I feel much more calm.” Another said, “I feel more in charge of my thoughts.”

Media literacy and civic engagement

Leonard, who also works as a videographer for the town of Andover recording public meetings and events, considers himself civically engaged. But he said the class strengthened his desire to become even more involved. “I think it made me want to be more engaged. It’s made me aware of people who didn’t have a voice. I want to be politically active and make a difference.”

By the end of the semester, students have the confidence to share what they’ve learned outside of class. Leonard has done so in conversations with his parents about politics. “They might mention something, and I’ll say, ‘Oh, where did you get that,’ and we will look at it together,” he said.

And the learning doesn’t stop at the classroom door. Students get extra credit when they do community service, attend a municipal meeting or volunteer at the polls on Election Day. One year, 30 of Robb’s students volunteered in some form. “They were so passionate,” she said.

That passion for civic responsibility endures. “I’ve gone to vote and seen students I had five or six years earlier. They say, ‘Of course, I vote.’ That is so encouraging,” she said.

Podcast special | “Sandy Hook at 10: Tragedy, Conspiracies and Justice”

On Dec. 14, it will be 10 years since a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 first graders and six adults. Soon after, conspiracy theories calling the massacre a hoax emerged. And they have persisted for a decade, thanks to amplification and profiteering by “alt-right” media figure Alex Jones.

In a special two-part episode of our podcast Is that a fact? — “Sandy Hook at 10: Tragedy, conspiracy theories and justice” — we explore the aftermath of the shooting and how what seemed like an aberration of untruths would instead develop into a bellwether for a shift in public discourse, with conspiracy theories becoming a common element of tragic events. We also discuss how victims’ families have fought back against the lies and harassment and brought about lasting change.

‘Typhoid Mary of the Sandy Hook hoax’

In part one, Elizabeth Williamson, a feature writer with The New York Times and author of Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth, explains the incomprehensible need to deny reality and the lucrative market that exploits people’s vulnerability. “He is a sort of a Typhoid Mary of the Sandy Hook hoax,” Williamson said of Jones. She noted that he “has been there at every stop along our descent as a nation down the rabbit hole.” 

A father fights back

In part two, we speak with Lenny Pozner, father of Noah, the youngest victim at Sandy Hook. Pozner knew early on that the hoaxers’ movement would be widespread, lasting and harmful. So, he chose to fight back on behalf of his child and other victims. “Noah’s story will always need to be told because there’ll always be someone misusing it,” he said. “I knew that I needed to do everything that I’m able to do to help debunk, to help clarify, to tell my story as best as I can, which really is just telling Noah’s story.”

We hope you’ll listen to these compelling interviews and share them with your community, helping to make sure facts and evidence are front and center in these conversations.

For more insightful interviews about misinformation, news literacy and society, be sure to check out the first two seasons of Is that a fact?. Season One analyzes misinformation and elections, and Season Two addresses false narratives and the harm they cause.

A decade after Sandy Hook, progress through the pain

On Dec. 14, 2012, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. and, within minutes, ended the lives of 20 first-graders and six adults.

In the decade since that day, grieving families have had to contend with conspiracy theorists – egged on by “alt-right” radio host Alex Jones and others – who believe the shooting never happened and the victims never existed.

To help make sense of the incomprehensible need some people have to deny reality, and to learn how to successfully fight disinformation spreaders like Jones, I recently turned to New York Times feature writer Elizabeth Williamson, author of Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth. I also spoke with Lenny Pozner, whose six-year-old-son, Noah, died in the shooting and became a particular point of obsession for those who deny the tragedy.

Williamson and Pozner helped trace the origins of the mass delusions a dispiriting percentage of our fellow Americans now seem to be under, and detailed the emotional journey of what it takes to fight against conspiracy theories – and win gains. Surprisingly, these conversations also left me feeling hopeful about a future where we are all more responsible consumers of news and information.

What makes Jones so dangerous

Jones began denying the Sandy Hook shooting within hours through his widely popular broadcast. Shockingly, Williamson confirmed that even today, multiple credible surveys show that one in five Americans now believe all mass shootings are hoaxes.

Williams said Jones helped drive this through his broadcasts, which draw an audience of tens of millions of devoted fans. A few different elements make his messages particularly potent, dangerous – and lucrative. One key strategy, Williamson said, is that Jones taps into the strong sense of community among conspiracy theorists and uses that to mobilize people.

“He deputizes his audience to fight back. In the case of Sandy Hook, they did that with confrontation and with threats of violence,” she told me.

Along the way, Jones has profited handsomely, casting doubt on COVID –19 vaccines while selling quack cures, for example.

“He stokes all of these fears and then he is offering a product as a solution,” Williamson said.

Harm – and progress 

These examples show how conspiracy theories and hoaxes can end up affecting all of us. For Pozner, the force of mis- and disinformation consumed his whole life.

Immediately after the Sandy Hook shooting, online “hoaxers,” as Pozner calls the hordes of truth-deniers, questioned everything about Noah’s life and his death. Despite the emotional pain it caused him, Pozner dedicated himself to setting the record straight – from correcting seemingly small errors of fact on legacy news websites to tackling much larger conspiracy theories on social media sites and blogging platforms. For those efforts, Pozner’s family and other Sandy Hook victims received death threats sent to their homes.

In the face of immense loss, Pozner and the family members persevered in their defense of facts – and they have notched significant wins. Perhaps that’s why, even on this otherwise heart-wrenching anniversary of the shooting, I choose to see progress through the pain.

Jones recently lost three defamation lawsuits filed by victims’ family members and has been ordered to pay almost $1.5 billion in damages, with one more trial outstanding. Pozner – through the work of his nonprofit, the HONR network, and through the advocacy of others – has convinced major tech companies such as Facebook and WordPress to change their policies and terms of service to better protect the next of kin of major tragedies, and crack down on hate and harassment.

How to push back against conspiracies

But we can’t rely on the victims of tragedies to do this work alone, and certainly not while they are also grieving their losses. Ten years after Sandy Hook, they don’t have to.

Organizations like the News Literacy Project, where I work, are helping news consumers learn how to tell fact from fiction, identify credible sources, and actively push back against misinformation. Evidence increasingly suggests that these types of efforts can help inoculate people from being misled, which gives me hope.

We can all become news-literate and guard ourselves against conspiracy theories by understanding how they work. Be on the lookout for messages that push cynicism in institutions, connect random facts into supposedly meaningful patterns, and are impossible to prove no matter the evidence that’s presented. When you come across a strange or dark claim online, apply critical thinking and turn to a range of credible sources to help fact-check it

By practicing these skills, and encouraging others to do the same, we can create a movement in support of a more factual future. Let that also be a legacy of Sandy Hook.

Darragh Worland is the host of the News Literacy Project’s podcast, Is that a fact?, which recently released a two-part series about the Sandy Hook shooting and the conspiracy theories that followed.

Helping students lead productive conversations this holiday season and beyond

For those celebrating holidays this season, it can be a joyful time to get together with loved ones. However, navigating conversations with family and friends — especially any who have been misled by mis- and disinformation — can also be stressful.

Educators can help students develop the skills to confidently manage these situations, and understand and debunk misinformation they may encounter, using resources from the News Literacy Project in their lesson plans. Below is a curated selection of lessons, exercises and articles that can be useful to integrate into a middle or high school news and media literacy curriculum.

Start with our article and infographic “How to teach news literacy in polarizing times” for strategies on how to approach issues such as partisanship and credibility.


Educators can help students analyze the information landscape by assigning lessons through our Checkology®virtual classroom. These suggestions — just three of the platform’s 18 lessons for grades 6-12 — help students understand misinformation, spot conspiracy theories and discover the primary purpose of individual pieces of information.

Assign these and other media and news literacy lessons in just a few clicks. (It’s free!)

Supplementary Exercises

By assigning supplementary Checkology exercises, challenges and missions, educators can help improve students’ recognition of misinformation and strong evidence. (A free Checkology account is required to assign these exercises; register now.)


These articles provide some basic skills for recognizing misinformation and confronting it — plus, they include helpful infographics for visual learners.


Check out our collection of topics on Flip, packed with relevant classroom activities and discussion-starters. The topics below cover how to conduct conversations with empathy and respect, how to share information responsibly online and more. (Note: To add topics to a group, be sure to create a Flip account.)

By teaching classes how to apply critical thinking and news literacy skills in their lives, you’ll equip students with the ability to identify fact from fiction — an invaluable gift during the holiday season and beyond. A great starting point (especially if you are looking to fill shorter, end-of-semester days) is Checkology; get started today!

Ambassador Connections: Meet Deborah Domingues-Murphy, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Deborah Domingues-Murphy, library media specialist
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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

My grandmother was a naturalized citizen. She taught all of us from a young age to be active in our civic duties, especially when it came to voting. She participated in every election from the time she received her citizenship well into her 100s. She read up on the candidates and the issues. She had ongoing correspondence with all the presidents dating back to Eisenhower up to the Clinton administration. 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.

2. What is your favorite tool or tip for teaching news literacy?

I use a lot of NLP materials. Two of my “go-tos” are the RumorGuard images and Checkology. I use the RumorGuard images to see how well my students can discern the accuracy of the image. They are learning how to apply the five factors  for credibility: authenticity, source, evidence, context, reasoning. The other is Checkology, it is so adaptable. I can use lessons as part of direct instruction as well as assign a number of them to extend learning. The fact that the lessons are self-grading makes implementing it so easy.

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

In my class, I try to bring in some mindfulness exercises and practices. I have set routines in my class and start each class period with 5 minutes of silence. Students have told me it is the only time in the day they don’t feel stressed out. One described it as finally breathing, not feeling like he is always holding his breath. For me personally, I also do mindfulness exercises that include guided meditation and yoga. I also do watercolors and knit.

4. Design your own student questions for an event relevant to your region.

Pennsylvania is frequently a battleground state. As a result, there is a lot of disinformation and misinformation. We are bringing the NLP PitchIt! contest to Pennsylvania. Working with the school district (Allegheny Intermediate Unit), we want to give students a platform to write an evidence-supported essay about the topics of a free press and news literacy.

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

I never pass up on an opportunity to go to new places. I love learning about different cultures, eating local foods, seeing amazing sites.

6. Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat?

Team dog all the way (although wombats are a close second)

Learn more about all our NewsLitNation ambassadors and check out the profiles of Amanda Escheman and K.C. Boyd.

In spring 2023, NLP will be looking for more ambassadors to join our movement. Interested? Contact  for more information.

Annual report celebrates NLP’s successes and helps chart the way forward

Today, we’re releasing our annual report, and we are proud of our achievements in classrooms around the country, in our work with the public, and in our significant progress toward a more news-literate America. The report, which covers fiscal year 2022 (July 2021-June 2022), also highlights what we’ve accomplished during our ambitious four-year strategic plan for expanding our reach and impact, which concluded in June. While challenges remain, with your ongoing support, we know we can succeed.

 Read the report here.

By Greg McCaffery and Chuck Salter

This past year, the world has contended with devastating crises that were exacerbated by the proliferation of mis- and disinformation — which further undermined democracy. Steadfast throughout these challenges were educators, journalists, students and young people — ordinary heroes who stood firm in upholding our shared democratic values, including the importance of a free press and fact-based public discourse. That’s why we are hopeful about a common future founded on facts. And you’ll see the rationale for that hope in these pages. Just consider what we’ve achieved together over the past year:

With your support, more than 16,000 educators (a 20% increase over the previous year) used any number of our free resources to serve an estimated 2.4 million students in all 50 states.

We created more content for our Checkology® virtual classroom than ever before, including a three-part science component that explores how to get data-savvy, evaluate science-based claims and identify health misinformation.

We launched a lesson on editorial cartooning that features political cartoonists explaining the importance of this form of opinion journalism. Additionally, we are developing a lesson for release in early 2023 that explores the roots of distrust of the news media and “expertise.”

We dropped a new season of our podcast Is that a fact?, where we explored the origins of false narratives and the harm they cause. And our third annual National News Literacy Week, in partnership with The E.W. Scripps Company, reached over 48 million people across the nation, encouraging them to “stop the flood” of misinformation while underscoring  the vital role of news literacy in a democracy.

We also successfully concluded our four-year strategic plan, a journey you took with us to help NLP reach national scale.

We hope in these pages you feel pride in the accomplishments we’ve made and take heart in the stories of our educators and students. Your interest in, partnership with, and championing of NLP have made our work possible. Now we set out to transform our mission into a national movement in the pursuit of a more civically engaged, information-savvy America. And we hope you will continue to stand with us as we harness your individual energy into a collective strength that ensures a more robust, equitable democracy for generations to come.

NLPeople: Ebonee Otoo, senior vice president of educator engagement

Ebonee Otoo, Dallas, Texas

This is part of a series that introduces you to the people behind the scenes at the News Literacy Project.

1. Can you tell us what brought you to NLP?

NLP was the perfect marriage between my background in journalism and love for education. I was working for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education in D.C. when a former colleague told me she saw a role I’d be perfect for. I applied the same day. Between my applying and getting the job, the pandemic began. I thought it was surreal to work for this cause in 2020 during the middle of the perfect storm of misinformation: the COVID-19 pandemic, a contentious election and a racial uprising following the death of George Floyd. I knew immediately I’d made the right, and most necessary, choice for such an unprecedented time.

2. How has your background as a coalition builder and community engagement expert influenced your work at NLP?

I’m proud to have spent my career working for causes I’m passionate about. I have worked with some of the best coalition builders in the country. Throughout my career, building and working directly with the community, I’ve learned that it’s important to listen to what the people want. If you pay attention, communities know what they need. My background has given me the courage to believe in the power of communities. I see value in every educator we encounter, and I am eager to co-create a future with them that we can both be happy to live in.

I’ve learned that people don’t need to be empowered. They have power. They often don’t have the resources to harness that power. That is where NLP comes in. We offer support, training, resources and a community platform that enables educators to teach the skills learners need to know. Now that is a lot of power!

What I love about my work at NLP is that I get to listen to educators and help meet their needs. We are a solution to a problem they’re facing every day. I can’t think of a better way to spend my life than building a movement of educators passionate about creating a more news-literate nation.

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

I’m passionate about mentorship. I have been mentoring since 2013. Being a mentor is an important part of my personal ideology for a life of service. There is a lot of evidence that correlates mentoring with positive outcomes for young people. And since I’ve benefited so greatly from mentors, it’s only fitting that I extend that same opportunity to someone else. I recently traveled with a mentee to Ghana in June 2022. It was her first time in Africa. We visited several parts of the country, including the slave castles on the coast. It was one of the most memorable trips of my life, and I think the same is true for her.

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

While I love cats, I’m team dog. I have a pandemic puppy named Psalm. She’s a small land shark, but we’ve braved the last year and a half together.

5. What item do you always have in your fridge?

BBQ sauce. I put it on everything.




More election resources to help you stay informed, not misled

We’re just a couple of weeks from Election Day. In many states, early and mail-in voting is already underway. We have created a few more resources to help you stay informed – not misled – as we enter the final stretch of election season. Be sure to check out NLP’s original Election 2022 page, where you’ll find videos, infographics and more to help you avoid election misinformation.

Infographic: Three types of election rumors to avoid

Bad actors push election disinformation designed to cause confusion and undermine confidence in American democracy. The same false claims tend to get recycled year after year, which can make them easier to spot.

We created this infographic that breaks down false “ballot mule” accusations as well as rumors about poll workers and mail-in voting. We’ve also included tools and tips for protecting yourself against these and similar bogus election claims with links to credible sources.

Download the digital version here (perfect for linking in an email or on social media).

Download the print version here (perfect for in-person discussions or teaching events ahead of the election or giving to a family member who prefers to read it on paper).

Partner blog: Prep for the U.S. midterm elections with these online tools

We’ve partnered with Mozilla to help people prepare to vote in the midterms.

“As an organization that advocates for a healthy internet, we consider online misinformation to be a huge barrier to seeing that better internet,” Mozilla writes. The post also has information about how to check your voter registration and what’s on your ballot. Read it here.

We recently curated a Pocket collection of must-reads ahead of the election. We explore what’s being done and what still needs to be addressed to ensure the integrity of our elections. Check it out here.

More expert videos: Protecting yourself from disinformation

We talked with Bret Schafer, a senior fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, about his work tracking online conversations about the election. He explained how foreign actors are interfering in the American electoral process by exploiting divisive topics to sow domestic discord.

“They’re not trying to insert something new into a conversation that Americans aren’t already talking about,” he said.

Schafer also offered tips for protecting yourself against election misinformation that spreads on social media.

“Go to multiple trusted sources, and that’s usually the best way to defend yourself,” he said.

Schafer was one of four experts we spoke to ahead of the midterms who helped us understand the common types of election misinformation to watch out for and how to protect ourselves from it.

Visit our YouTube channel to hear from experts from Factchequeado.com, the Brennan Center for Justice and Marquette University Law School.



The final weeks before Election Day can be overwhelming with political advertising at full pitch and lots of information flying around. Our resources to help you prepare to vote are always available at newslit.org/election2022.


NLP: With Sandy Hook ruling, Jones to suffer consequences of his lies

In response to a Connecticut jury decision that ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his company to pay at least $965 million to those harmed by his lies about the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting, the News Literacy Project released the following statement:

“There are few things more heinous than deliberately and repeatedly spreading conspiracy theories and false information about a mass school shooting where families lost loved ones. Yet, that’s what Alex Jones did and today a jury in Connecticut is making him suffer the consequences for his lies.

“Jones spread disinformation about the murder of young children and school officials at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that caused the parents, loved ones and an FBI agent to be relentlessly harassed about the horrific tragedy. According to the Washington Post, ‘Within hours of the shooting, Jones was telling his audience that it was staged as a pretext for confiscating guns. Within days, he began to suggest that grieving parents were actors. In the years that followed, he repeatedly said the massacre was faked.’ He also used these outrageous claims for self-promotion — both to raise his profile and generate revenue.

“Now juries in Texas and Connecticut that heard all the details and defenses about the two cases have ruled against him and ordered him to pay more than $1 billion in punitive and compensatory damages. The message they sent is clear: Jones must be held accountable for spreading lies that led to the harassment of innocent and already suffering families and for distorting the national debate about one of the most urgent issues of our time. The enormous sum he must pay should serve as a deterrent to others who hope to profit from disinformation.”

‘Unite around facts’

“At NLP, our work is dedicated to helping people learn how to recognize fact from fiction. We are dedicated to stopping the spread of mis- and disinformation by providing free resources to prevent people from falling for conspiracy theories and to help them gain the skills to determine the credibility of information sources. This verdict is a major victory for those who want to unite around facts and credible information in people’s lives, and it is a bright spot in the often overwhelming fight against misinformation. We can all rest a bit easier with the knowledge that at least some purveyors of lies and disinformation who seek personal gain at the expense of the public good will be held accountable.”

Stop falsehoods in their tracks: Join the RumorGuard

The News Literacy Project is encouraging everyone to push back against misinformation with its new platform, RumorGuard, which helps you know what’s safe to share and which rumors should be stopped in their tracks. It cites topical viral rumors and lays out exactly how the public can determine that a claim doesn’t hold weight, based on five factors for credibility.

RumorGuard homepage interface with a featured rumor

The RumorGuard homepage.

Exploring RumorGuard

The platform covers all types of misinformation and categorizes it by topic, from manipulated content or engagement bait to pressing issues like climate change and politics.

#FalseContext topic on RumorGuard with display of tagged rumors

Filter viral rumors by news literacy topics like false context.

NLP also built RumorGuard as the foundation for a common future founded on facts. The platform goes beyond traditional fact-checking and source verification by using debunked hoaxes, memes and other misinformation as the starting point for learning news literacy skills.

The five factors

Each RumorGuard post takes readers through the facts behind a specific viral rumor, then breaks down the five factors that can be used to verify any claim:

1. Authenticity: Is it authentic?
2. Source: Has it been posted or confirmed by a credible source?
3. Evidence: Is there evidence that proves the claim?
4. Context: Is the context accurate?
5. Reasoning: Is it based on solid reasoning?

RumorGuard Five Factors example

This rumor failed to pass three of the five credibility factors: Authenticity, source, and evidence.


These factors connect users with sources and opportunities for learning and strengthening news literacy skills.

RumorGuard techniques for learning about reasoning

Learn and practice techniques to check reasoning.


NLP also encourages everyone to join the RumorGuard and act for facts by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, which debunks viral rumors. Then, share what you’ve learned with the wider community.

All of us can become well-informed and learn the skills to stay well-informed with RumorGuard, the newest addition to NLP’s comprehensive news literacy resources.

News Literacy Ambassador Program welcomes six new educators

The News Literacy Ambassador Program is a national initiative to mobilize educators in the fight against misinformation and is a key component of NLP’s NewsLitNation, a network of news literacy educators. Ambassadors are essential to NLP’s effort to build a more news-literate nation, and, in turn, a more robust, equitable democracy.

Ambassadors work at the grassroots level in their communities, organizing colleagues and allies to help advocate for news literacy education. Their work is critical to turning NLP’s mission into a movement with a transformative impact on young people around the nation.

“Educators around the country often feel like they are alone in this journey, so being able to connect with a fellow educator who can relate to their experiences, knows the local education landscape and has the expertise needed to help them succeed helps empower and expand their capacity,” said Miriam Romais, director, NewsLitNation. “The ability to recognize credible information is a critical life skill, and in many areas of the country teachers lack access to quality teaching resources that are free and nonpartisan. We aim to help fill that gap.”

NLP has expanded this program to 16 ambassadors, recently welcoming six educators in key states from Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.

Meet our new ambassadors below and visit NewsLit Nation to learn more about the entire group.

Juan Alvarado, high school ELA Educator, Texas

Juan was born and raised in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and emigrated to South Texas with his parents in 1988. He teaches at Valley View High School in Pharr-Hidalgo, Texas, as an English, STEM and Pre-AP teacher. In 2017 Alvarado became the high school journalism and ready-writing coach, and one year later his students won the first-ever Academic District Championship title in journalism.

Juan Armijo, director of social studies, New Mexico

Juan teaches AP United States government, as well as politics and principles of democracy, at Mayfield High School in the Las Cruces Public Schools System. He has participated in the development of the new Social Studies Standards and Benchmarks (High School Civics) for the state of New Mexico and was part of the Materials Review Institute for the adoption of a new social studies textbook.

Jocelyn Burlew, learning experience designer, Ohio

Jocelyn uses culturally responsive practices to cultivate a classroom environment that places students at the heart of the learning process. She taught fifth grade English Language Arts and middle school social studies. She recently designed a middle school elective focused on digital, information and media literacy to help students become competent, literate, informed participants in society.

David Doerr, high school journalism and career and technology education teacher, Texas

David has taught journalism and career and technology classes in the Austin Independent School District since 2010, serving as a faculty adviser for student publications. He is the chair of the Texas Association of Journalism Educators’ Legislative Committee and Policy Committee. TAJE supports the efforts of scholastic journalism by providing conventions, contests and resources to teachers and students.

Lesli Morris, ELA teacher, Utah

Lesli is a high school ELA teacher and instructional system design specialist for Canyons School District in Sandy, Utah. She has taught high school in a variety of settings — from youth in custody to a National Blue Ribbon high school. One of her goals is to relentlessly promote diversity and pursue equity in education through access to quality curriculum and by supporting teachers with research-based instructional practices.

Sean Scanlon, director of curriculum, Illinois

Sean, who has a master’s in educational leadership, is the director of curriculum and instruction at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois. He created the Catholic EdTech Summit and hosted EdCamp Chicago. His passion is to help teachers integrate technology in ways that can engage students, while also helping them navigate the ever-shifting landscape of news literacy.

When, where and how do I vote? Get the facts from reliable sources.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Now is the time to make sure you have the facts about when, where and how to vote. When you search for information about the midterm elections, make sure you’re referencing reliable sources.

As part of the News Literacy Project’s campaign to help voters be informed – not misled – during election season, we spoke to several experts about how to avoid falling for common types of misinformation during the midterms.

“One classic example of misinformation is when to vote,” Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and a law professor at Stetson University College of Law, told us. “So, typically we have elections on Tuesdays in America, but if you are targeting a certain group of voters with misinformation, the classic thing to tell them is that the election is on Wednesday.”

Atiba Ellis, a professor at the Marquette University Law School, told us that disinformation tactics regularly have been used in previous elections regarding how and when to vote.

“Flyers that say, ‘Election Day has been postponed for a week,’ or robocalls that inform voters that ‘Republicans vote on Tuesday, but Democrats vote on Wednesday,’ all of these things are forms of misinformation,” he said.

Torres-Spelliscy said the most reliable sources for information about upcoming elections are the officials who actually run them.

“If you have a question about when voting hours are or what types of mail-in ballots are accepted, then the soundest place to find that information is one of those sources from the elections officials that actually run elections,” she said.

The National Association of State Election Directors is the professional organization for the civil servants responsible for administering elections in every U.S. state and territory and the District of Columbia. It has a webpage where voters can find trustworthy links to information in their state, directly from the officials in charge of  carrying out the election.

“Every state has information in terms of how Election Day is supposed to run,” Ellis said. “Probably most importantly, to verify that you are properly registered and you know where, when and how to cast your own ballot, check with the government as opposed to falling for anything that you hear over the internet,” he said.

States and territories have different deadlines for registering to vote, so check your registration now.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan grassroots organization that encourages voter participation for all, put together a resource hub at vote411.org. There, you can verify that you’re registered to vote and find out what’s on your ballot.

And when it comes to avoiding misinformation, NLP’s  2022 election page is a virtual toolbox designed to help you spot misinformation and stop its spread. Be sure to sign up for our webinars, whichteach you how to find information from credible sources, spot election misinformation and engage in meaningful conversation with those who have fallen for it.

New STEM-Aligned Lessons Released on Checkology®

Educators asked, and we’ve answered! In response to requests for STEM-aligned lessons on Checkology®️, the News Literacy Project’s free, browser-based virtual classroom, we’ve added a trio of new lessons: “Evaluating Science-Based Claims,” “Be Health Informed” and “Making Sense of Data.”

These lessons support students’ understanding of science and math principles, such as evaluating methods and evidence. They also incorporate real-world issues such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines, medical and scientific misinformation, pseudoscience and conspiratorial thinking.

Educators in the sciences, mathematics and social studies will find these new lessons particularly useful for drawing connections to current events and information students encounter online. The lessons also make valuable additions to subjects such as journalism and history, providing or enhancing foundational understandings of science and data literacy.

Learn more about each of the lessons below.

“Evaluating Science-Based Claims” boosts students’ science literacy 

Evaluating science-based claims

Scientific findings have shaped our entire world, from our methods of transportation to how we communicate with one another. Most people don’t question the science behind everyday conveniences such as cars and cell phones, but topics such as climate change – which can disrupt our worldview and previous beliefs – can lead some to question the validity of science, regardless of the evidence and scientific consensus. In addition, some people use pseudoscience to support beliefs that have no scientific accuracy.

“Evaluating Science-Based Claims” teaches students how to evaluate science-based claims using an easy acronym, FLOATER (Falsifiability, Logic, Objectivity, Alternative explanations, Tentative conclusions, Evidence and Replicability), developed by the lesson’s host, Melanie Trecek-King. Trecek-King is a scientist and a teacher at Massasoit Community College in Brockton, Massachusetts. She advocates for science literacy on her website, thinkingispower.com.

“Be Health Informed” empowers students to evaluate health and wellness information 

Be health informed

We make decisions about our health and well-being all the time – from how much we sleep to which treatments we seek out when we get sick. The stakes couldn’t be higher where our health is concerned. The new Checkology lesson “Be Health Informed” teaches students how to spot health misinformation and discern which sources are credible and based on quality evidence, so they can avoid being misled.

Students learn to watch out for red flags when encountering misinformation. They also get a glimpse into why certain groups are vulnerable to health misinformation.

“Be Health Informed” is hosted by Dr. Melissa Clarke, the former assistant dean of the Howard University College of Medicine and CEO of the Be Health Empowered Group.

“Making Sense of Data” teaches students to be data savvy

Making sense of data

Data is all around us, whether we know it or not. When we pick up our phones, “like” something on social media or do a simple internet search, we are generating and being influenced by data.

In “Making Sense of Data,” students learn how to better understand and analyze the accuracy and credibility of data. Students discover how credible data is produced, why no data is objective or infallible, and what makes some data more valid than others. They also learn to recognize and avoid common pitfalls in how data is interpreted and visualized.

The lesson is hosted by Sisi Wei, a data journalist and the editor-in-chief of the nonprofit newsroom The Markup. Previously, she was the co-executive founder of OpenNews.

NLP’s new STEM-aligned lessons on Checkology were created with the generous support of our funders. Additional funding was provided by The Science Literacy Foundation and Smart Family Fund. 

Free educator event!

Explore all three new lessons in an educator webinar, “STEM-aligned media and news literacy lessons for your classroom,” on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. Melanie Trecek-King (host of “Evaluating Science-Based Claims”) and News Literacy Project staff will introduce the lessons and share how you can use them with your students. Register now.