NewsLit Nation, The Juice partner to support educators

The News Literacy Project is pleased to announce a new partnership with The Juice, a unique learning program created to help students develop media literacy, reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.

“When considering partners to align with, The Juice just made sense,” said Ebonee Rice, NLP’s senior vice president of the educator network. “They uphold a high bar for helping educators source content to teach the specialized pedagogical methods specific to the process of news literacy and critical thinking. We are excited to see how this platform enhances our network’s ability to positively impact news literacy education.”

Through this partnership, members of NLP’s national educator network, NewsLit Nation, can use the resources of this current events-focused learning platform free during this school year and at a reduced price thereafter. (Educators who have not yet joined NewsLit Nation can easily register now.)

Educators can apply Checkology® virtual classroom lessons or NLP’s other educator resources and use them with The Juice, which is designed specifically for educators and students in grades 5-12. The learning platform’s newsletter, The Daily Juice, is created by journalists, educators and assessment experts. The Daily Juice enables students to quickly read a few of the most interesting news stories of the day. These include narratives of positive human accomplishments, vocabulary builders and STEM concepts. An assessment question follows each story, and teachers receive real-time diagnostic data about student performance that highlights standards mastery and accountability.

Each story is published at four different competency levels, so students have access to the same information regardless of their reading level. This provides an opportunity for inclusive classroom conversations around the same topics.

Follow this special link to sign up for a no-obligation trial.

 About The Juice

The company comprises experienced educators, journalists and technologists committed to making students better critical thinkers, communicators and citizens by equipping them with the tools to thrive in the 21st century. The Juice is a “plug-and-play solution” that aims to make educators’ lives easier and empower educators to make informed, data-driven learning decisions.


Maria Ressa, fierce defender of journalism, receives Nobel Peace Prize

In 2020, she was a guest on NLP’s podcast, Is that a fact?

The News Literacy Project (NLP) offers its congratulations to 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winners Maria Ressa, the founder of the media company, Rappler, who has fearlessly confronted violent authoritarian rule in the Philippines, and Dmitry Muratov, a founder of of Russia’s independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, which provides fact-based reporting on controversial topics other Russian media rarely cover.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee is honoring Ressa and Muratov “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” In announcing the prize, the committee recognized “their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia. At the same time, they are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.”

“Ressa and Muratov exemplify the vital role that journalists are playing throughout the world in holding the powerful accountable in the face of serious risks to their own freedom and safety,” said Alan Miller, the founder and CEO of NLP. “We applaud the Nobel committee for recognizing these profiles in journalistic courage.”

Speaks with NLP about journalism and authoritarian rule

In 2020, Ressa addressed the question “Can journalism survive an authoritarian ruler?” as a guest on NLP’s new podcast Is that a fact? During that interview, she spoke about how social media feeds narrow our view of the world and give legitimacy to falsehoods, propaganda and conspiracy theories.

“This is how you create alternate realities,” she said. “That’s the world we live in today… it’s important that we really understand that social media has changed the information ecosystem globally. What it’s done now is that it’s become part of the dictator’s playbook because a lie told a million times can become a fact.

“And with micro-targeting, it takes our most vulnerable moment to a message and sells it to the highest bidder, whether that is a government or whether that’s a company, anyone who pays for it, right? And that is alarming to me because journalists can’t even do our jobs if we all don’t agree on facts. If you don’t have facts, you can’t have truth. If you don’t have truth, you can’t have trust. Without any of these three things, you can’t have democracy.’

Listen to the full interview.

Criticism of Facebook

Ressa has been a vocal critic of Facebook, which the administration of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has used as a powerful propaganda tool. “Facebook is now the world’s largest distributor of news and yet it has refused to be the gatekeeper. And when it does that, when you allow lies to actually get on the same playing field as facts, it taints the entire public sphere,” she said in a 2019 interview with The New York Times.

She continues to uphold the highest standards of journalism and push back against Duterte’s regime, despite being arrested and jailed and becoming the target of multiple death threats. Ressa has personally experienced how hard it is for journalists to hold the line against an authoritarian leader when press freedoms are threatened.

For decades, Muratov has fought for freedom of speech and professional ethics and standards of journalism under worsening conditions, harassment, threats and violence. Six journalists at Novaya Gazeta have been killed since its founding nearly three decades ago.

NLP founder and CEO Alan Miller receives AARP Purpose Prize

Alan C. Miller, News Literacy Project founder and CEO, is a winner of AARP’s prestigious Purpose Prize®,  a national award that celebrates people 50 and older who are using their life experience and wisdom to tackle societal challenges and inspire others.

“AARP is honored to celebrate these extraordinary older adults, who have dedicated their lives to serving others in creative and innovative ways,” AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said. “During these trying times in our country and globally, we are inspired to see people use their life experiences to build a better future for us all.”

AARP awards $50,000 to each honoree’s organization and provides technical assistance supports and resources to help broaden the impact of its work.

In a profile on AARP’s website Miller describes what motivated him to create NLP, the problem he hopes to solve and what makes NLP’s approach stand out. “I founded the News Literacy Project in 2008, with the belief that knowing how to identify credible news is an essential life skill in an information age — and that this was not being widely taught in schools,” Miller said.

Watch the short video that AARP produced to learn more about Miller and NLP’s impact. Recipients of the Purpose Prize also are eligible for the AARP Inspire Award. The public votes to choose the winner, whose organization receives $10,000. In this video, Miller answers AARP’s three “inspire” questions.

“We realized last year that misinformation is such an existential threat to democracy that we could not limit ourselves to reaching just the next generation. We are racing against a toxic tide of misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories that is undermining our trust in institutions,” Miller said. “We must find a way to bridge this divide by creating a shared narrative around verified, agreed-upon facts.

A sense of purpose

“One of the things that distinguishes NLP is our focus on news literacy, which is a subset of media literacy,” he explained. NLP uses the standards of quality journalism as an aspirational yardstick against which to measure all news and information, partners with journalists who share their skills, provides an understanding of how quality journalism works and instills an appreciation of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in our society.

“We don’t teach people what to think; we teach people how to think. We help them develop critical thinking skills to make judgments about whatever they encounter in the information landscape.”

He also shared his advice for others who want to make a difference in the world. “Start with something for which you have a passion and a sense of purpose. For me, journalism was always a calling, not just a career. In NLP, I feel blessed to have found a second professional calling.”

Read about this year’s other Purpose Prize winners, as well as Honorary Award recipient actor Michael J. Fox, selected for his advocacy work to help advance scientific progress toward a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

NLPeople: Andrea Lin, design manager

Andrea Lin, design manager, Washington, D.C.

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

How I joined NLP has often felt like a stroke of luck! I studied public relations and graphic design in college, and after graduating, I knew I wanted to explore opportunities that would allow me to contribute to my passions in design, journalism, and youth development. For a bit, I felt torn on what direction to follow, like I had to make a choice on one or the other. When my previous managing editor forwarded me the visual designer opening at NLP, I couldn’t believe how perfectly this position matched the intersections of the ways in which I wanted to make a difference in the world.

2. While studying at American University, you were editor-in-chief of a student magazine and co-chair of the university’s Student Media Board, which comprised 10 publications. Did you confront issues related to news literacy in that work, or have you been able to look back on those positions through a news literacy lens?

I think American University is a very well-read bubble, evident in the number of students active in media organizations and the multitude of professional opportunities given for networking and internships. It was exciting to be able to learn and collaborate with classmates and professors who were all very invested in the mission of quality journalism and meaningful storytelling. I was an undergrad between 2014 and 2017, and I think one of the more prevalent conversations was one that was also happening across other college campuses at the time: the role of a journalist and the standards of objectivity when they come up against current social movements. We had ongoing conversations about distinguishing the ethics and role of op-eds, freedom of speech and what it means to represent critical perspectives.

Looking back now, learning to navigate these issues as they played out across the country was an invaluable way for us to really see the immediate and pressing consequences of news literacy on civic engagement. I think that same ethos is also how Checkology® and NLP have found such a winning formula in how they approach news literacy education, tying these concepts to real-world current issues with real impacts on our everyday lives.

3. What is the most surprising thing you have learned or experienced since joining NLP?

I used to believe plainly that having more information and more access to news sources was always a “good” thing and meant it was easier for more people to stay informed. Early on when I joined NLP, I was surprised to have this belief challenged, although it feels very obvious now. More access and more information alone does not lead to more informed decisions — they have to be accompanied by critical thinking skills and the ability to sift and evaluate what is worth consuming. I think about this NLP tip about an abundance of information and how true it has been with the spread of COVID-19 misinformation.

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

I love digital verification tools that help me fact-check shared images or videos on social media. As easy as it is these days to manipulate images, there are also so many neat resources online that are free and accessible that we can use to investigate digital media ourselves. Both in my work and in my personal life, it’s been super useful to know what kind of visual clues to look for in a photo and how to do a reverse image-search or using Google Maps.

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

In my spare time, I volunteer annually for a weeklong Taiwanese American youth summer conference in the Midwest. We foster personal growth and leadership skills with our campers from grades one through 12. I love getting to see our young campers challenge themselves and grow so much in just one week. Being with my community is very grounding, and it fills my heart every year to see how much these children care about the world around them. They are constantly impressing me and surprising me with what they accomplish. Folks love to underestimate children all the time, but I see for myself how individuals can thrive when you show them that you believe in them.

6. Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat? Or do you prefer stuffed animals to pets? (If you have a pet, please consider sharing a photo.)

I am a big fan of all furry pets, and I will always stop to admire a cutie when they pass on the street, but I am unquestionably Team Cat.

7. What one item do you always have in your refrigerator?

I get made fun of for this all the time, but I genuinely just enjoy the taste of V8 and tomato juice. When I’m feeling particularly wild, I’ll indulge with the spicy hot version of V8.

For student leader, news literacy brought growth and opportunity

At NLP, we know that our programs and resources work — our metrics tell us so. But statistics don’t show the personal impact of news literacy education, and we find those stories inspiring.

Photo of Valeria LuquinThat’s why we recently checked in with Valeria Luquin. We met her in 2019 when she was a freshman at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in Van Nuys, California. Journalism teacher Adriana Chavira introduced Luquin and her classmates to news literacy using NLP’s Checkology® virtual classroom when they were ninth graders. Valeria quickly grasped the concepts and applied what she learned to her daily life. She did so well we named her our Gwen Ifill Student of the Year! In this video she talks about helping family and friends become more news-literate and acting as a good role model for her younger sister.

Today, Luquin is a high school senior and news magazine editor-in-chief at her school’s student-run news website, The Pearl Post.  She also represents the student body as its vice president. “I look back on who I was freshman year [and] I notice a huge growth in myself as a person and as a student journalist,” said Luquin, who is also co-host of the school’s new Room 22 podcast.

Changing with the times

Chavira, who still teaches journalism at the school, tackles the changing trends in how students get their information. “As students increasingly rely more on their news from social media platforms such as TikTok, I’ve put more of an emphasis on asking them where they get their information,” she said. “I’ve always encouraged them to double-check the information to ensure that they are re-posting accurate information, especially in the past year with news of the Jan. 6 insurrection and COVID-19 pandemic.”

The students are changing as readily as the information landscape, Chavira said. “I’ve noticed that my freshmen this year come in with more news literacy skills than in previous years. They already know to double-check the information on social media, especially if it’s only one account reporting certain information.”

That kind of savvy is simply a part of who Luquin now is. “I still find all of the information from Checkology to be useful in my everyday life,” she said. That includes identifying credible sources and having a deep appreciation for the work journalists do to inform the public. “I am still not sure what I would like to major in, but a career in the journalism field is one of my top choices.”

Whatever path she chooses, Luquin credits her involvement with NLP for giving her an advantage early on. “The News Literacy Project opened up a lot of doors for me, especially after I was awarded the Gwen Ifill Student of the Year award. I am grateful for all they have done for me and for the work they continue to do to teach young teenagers about the importance of journalism.”

Season two of ‘Is that a fact?’ podcast launches today

We’ve just launched the second season of NLP’s Is that a fact? podcast, and this time we are going beyond examining misinformation’s ability to mislead to look at the origins of false narratives and the actual harm they have caused. The new episodes will explore how fictional information  emerges and then bubbles to the surface to misdirect the country’s civic and cultural discourse.

As the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approach, we look back at the untruths and myths that surround that fateful day. One of the core catalysts of 9/11 misinformation was the film Loose Change. Our first guest, Esquire magazine correspondent John McDermott told us, “remains probably the single most popular piece of conspiracy media ever created.” He explains how the film started a movement of conspiracy theorists that planted the seeds for today’s Qanon believers.

The second guest, James Meigs, former Popular Mechanics editor-in-chief, discussed how his team of journalists debunked many of the myths propagated by  Loose Change even before the film came out. “What was really powerful about Loose Change wasn’t the specific claim,” said Meigs. “It was the overall mood of the filmmaking …  It had really cool music. It had all this slow motion. It had this very compelling narration, even if a lot of it didn’t make a lot of sense. It was quite powerful to watch.”

9/11 impact: A personal perspective

Our final guest, Ann Van Hine, whose husband was a firefighter killed the day of the terrorist attacks, explained how she deals with the anniversary in personal terms.  “Everybody has a part of that day. Everybody knows where they were. Everybody has a memory, but you’re actually talking about the day that my daughter’s dad died, the day my husband died. I told my girls early on, if people started saying weird stuff about September 11th, which happened as time went on, then just blow them out of the water. Just say flat out with no preparation for them, ‘My dad was one of the firefighters killed that day.’ Cause that’ll suck the air out of the room. Not to be mean, but sometimes people need a reality check.”

We hope you’ll listen. Over the rest of the season, we’ll examine false narratives about the misperceptions that Democrats and Republicans have about each other, the Sandy Hook shootings, race relations and more. Please join us every other Wednesday for new episodes of Is that a fact? Listen here or on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Amazon Music and wherever podcasts are available.

CNBC highlights NLP’s Checkology® and an Alabama educator using the platform

In a new piece for CNBC,  journalist Salvador Rodriguez reported that amid the pandemic, quarantines, and homeschooling, “QAnon and anti-vaxxers brainwashed kids stuck at home.” With schools open, “teachers have to deprogram them.”

Rodriguez highlighted the efforts of  Sarah Wildes, a seventh-grade teacher in Alabama who is helping students filter out misinformation and find reliable news sources using lessons from the News Literacy Project’s (NLP) Checkology virtual classroom.  Checkology is an online platform that helps educators teach students how to identify credible information, seek out reliable sources, and apply critical thinking skills to separate fact-based content from falsehoods.

“The pandemic, the election, social justice issues — people are looking for reliable information, and educators need support to navigate the disinformation that’s out there,” said Shaelynn Farnsworth, NLP’s director of educator network expansion. As Wildes’ experience illustrates, Checkology is the perfect resource for this.

To read the full piece, click here.

Librarian K.C. Boyd an advocate for students, community, profession

When you think of a librarian, do you envision that old movie cliché of a timid woman putting a finger to her lips and “shushing” readers? If so, you’ve never met K.C. Boyd, a public-school librarian in Washington, D.C.

Last year, Boyd became one of NLP’s first News Literacy Ambassadors, educators who work in their communities to help bring news literacy education to their schools and create a generation of civically engaged news-literate adults. Boyd is a passionate advocate for her profession, her students and her community.

For example, earlier this month she and her fellow librarians worked to support an amendment to the District of Columbia’s public schools budget to provide $3.25 million for the restoration of full-time librarian positions in 36 schools, many in under-served neighborhoods. That amendment, introduced by District of Columbia Councilmember Janeese Lewis George, was unanimously approved by the District Council in early August. Boyd said the victory was the result of hard work by a coalition of educators, school district leaders and parents. “We’d been fighting for 18 months,” she said. “It was a big lift, and I’m thankful for the unanimity. Now we’re making an extra push to make the positions essential.”

Second generation educator

Boyd’s deep commitment to education runs in the family. Raised in Chicago, both of her parents were science teachers, and her mother later became a computer science teacher. But Boyd, who has been a librarian for 24 years, says she at first resisted her parents’ encouragement to become an educator. After college, she worked in corporate America as a recruiter for a Fortune 500 company. When she began to feel stalled in her position, her father again made his case. “He swooped back in and got me to go back to school for a master’s in library science,” said Boyd, who has been a librarian at the district’s  Jefferson Middle School Academy for five years.

Previously, she served as the Area Library Coordinator for Chicago Public Schools and was a District Coordinator for the Mayor Daley Book Club for Middle School Students. She also was  the lead librarian in East St. Louis, Illinois. She also holds master’s degrees in media communications and education leadership.

‘You’ve got to give them a platform to discover’

Boyd currently serves on the executive board for the District of Columbia Library Association and the Advisory Board for EveryLibrary. She is a member of the American Library Association Chapter Council representing Washington D.C., the American Association of School Librarians Digital Tools and the Washington Teachers’ Union Equity Collaborative.

Over the course of her career, she has seen how technology has changed libraries and the way  people use them but says the essence of her role is largely the same. She continues to help students discover the joys of reading every day, improve their research skills, receive the preparation needed to succeed in high school and grow into upstanding digital citizens. That concept, practicing responsible digital citizenship, is embedded in the media studies course that she teaches.

“I incorporate many different programs in this course. I use current events from The Sift® [NLP’s free weekly newsletter for educators] and apply that to a lesson or activity,” she said. “It challenges their thinking and their place in the world. And they learn a lot. You’ve got to give them that platform to discover.”

"It challenges their thinking and their place in the world. And they learn a lot. You've got to give them that platform to discover." -K.C. Boyd, Middle school media specialist

Having seen students struggling to discern credible sources and information from a flood of misinformation, Boyd wants to make an impact outside her classroom as an NLP ambassador. After a school year disrupted by the pandemic, she is looking forward to developing a plan to involve educators in D.C., Maryland and Virginia in efforts to promote news literary education and hopes to get organizations that serve educators and librarians on board. When you visit Boyd’s website The Boss Librarian Blog, the passion that makes her an ideal ambassador is evident in the tagline at the top of the page: “Bringing the zeal back to school librarianship.”

Back to school with the News Literacy Project

With the start of the school year, are you ready to dive into news literacy education? Becoming news-literate helps students learn to better navigate our complex information landscape and avoid spiraling down misinformation rabbit holes. It’s also essential to being civically engaged.

The events of the last 18 months have made it clear just how urgently students need news literacy skills. If you want to help your students discern facts from falsehoods, start with the News Literacy Project (NLP). We’re the leading provider of impactful, relevant and FREE resources and programs for teaching news literacy.

Begin by registering for NLP’s e-learning platform, the Checkology® virtual classroom, where your students will learn to identify credible information, seek out reliable sources, recognize misinformation and help stop its spread. The lessons also help them understand the role of the free press and the First Amendment in our democracy, and they are aligned to the C3 Framework, Common Core State Standards-ELA and to the ISTE standards. Checkology lessons also enhance students’ comprehension across disciplines. And be sure to join NLP’s NewsLit Nation, a national network to engage and mobilize more than 40,000 educators in all 50 states.

Events for the new school year

NLP supports your work throughout the school year, beginning with a variety of events and offerings. Choose the one that works best for you.

Online resources always available

Throughout the pandemic, when thousands of schools had to rely on distance learning, demand for Checkology surged. Aaron Feldstein, a middle school social studies teacher in California, is one of many educators who told NLP how much they valued our work. “If I were in charge, Checkology would be part of a national mandated curriculum for sure,” Feldstein said.

Whatever this school year brings, you can be sure NLP will be there to continue supporting educators and students avoid misinformation and become more news-literate.

Adams discusses new survey, spread of misinformation on Facebook 

Peter Adams, senior vice president of education, discussed a recent survey examining COVID-19 misinformation on Facebook in an August 4 interview with Chicago’s PBS affiliate, WTTW. 

Adams was asked to weigh in on what social media companies can do to curb the spread of misinformation on their platforms, and why misinformation spreads so quickly across platforms like Facebook.  

When asked how big a role social media plays in allowing COVID-19 vaccine misinformation to spread to  the general public, Adams responded, “You know, the cause and effect is a little tricky here. It might well be that people who are cynical and nihilistic toward mainstream media turn to Facebook. It might be that folks who are not that way to start with seeing messages on Facebook that enflame them and turn them to misinformation. It’s probably both, but what we know for sure is that despite Facebook’s statements saying that they will take down misinformation if they see it, there’s a lot of COVID mis- and disinformation on the platform.” 

View the full segment here. 

Teaching news literacy in polarizing times

By Hannah Covington and Suzannah Gonzales 

While discussing the Derek Chauvin murder trial in the death of George Floyd, a student alerts the class about the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright. On a separate day, another student asks why there was little coverage about a certain aspect of the deadly Atlanta-area shootings. The morning after a grand jury’s September decision in the Breonna Taylor case, a student wants to talk about it. Others bring up national politics.

In a school year of historic upheaval, partisanship and vitriol can easily seep into the classroom when controversial current events come up. Faced with charged students — as well as parents and guardians — some educators may question whether it is worth broaching these difficult topics at all.

But teaching current events through the lens of news literacy can help students engage meaningfully with the headlines they encounter without exacerbating strong emotions or divisions — and also empower them to identify credible news and information. Below are six tips and strategies for teaching news literacy in polarizing times.

1. Approach news reports like other texts

News coverage — like poetry, short stories and other class texts — offers rich opportunities for discussion and analysis. Remind students to approach news stories as they would other texts in class: closely and critically, evaluating each piece of information and any supporting evidence. If a student makes a polarized claim during class or in an assignment, challenge them to support the claim with fact-based evidence.

2. Focus on journalism standards

Center discussions of news articles on the standards of quality journalism, which can help build common ground. Even those who disagree on controversial issues can agree that credible news coverage should incorporate standards, such as fairness, accuracy and transparency.

For instance, asking students to read a news article with credible sources in mind — “Where is information coming from? How many different sources are there? Are any relevant voices or perspectives missing?” — can sharpen the focus of a class conversation and help move students beyond kneejerk reactions to a story topic.

3. Emphasize specifics

Rather than labeling an entire news report as “biased,” students should concentrate on particulars, such as a specific headline, caption or word choice. Pose questions like, “Is this specific element of the story fair and accurate?” or, “If you had to write a headline for this story, what would it be?”

Students, for example, could compare wording in breaking news alerts about the decision in the Breonna Taylor case. Or, they could focus on how news organizations label coverage of major developing stories, such as the deadly Atlanta-area spa shootings.

Focusing the conversation on specific parts of news coverage may help avoid fights over the topic itself.

4. Reflect on personal biases

Students benefit from becoming aware of their own biases as news consumers. Personal backgrounds and life experiences — as well as factors like race, ethnicity and gender — shape how we see the world. Ask students to consider how these biases might affect their perceptions of news reports and opinion pieces.

Following the Atlanta-area shootings, for example, students could read guidance published by the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) for newsrooms reporting on the shootings. Then, they could review news coverage and see how it compares to AAJA’s recommendations, taking note of language choices, context and sources.

5. Consult diverse news sources

Encourage students to explore various points of view by diversifying their media diet and turning to credible news sources that take journalism standards and ethics seriously. It’s easy to fall into partisan news bubbles, especially on social media. Challenge them to seek out multiple sources and perspectives — not just the ones they typically consult and agree with or that confirm their existing views. Being open to opposing viewpoints can help combat polarization.

Coverage comparisons, including headlines, work especially well: How did different news organizations cover this same topic? What similarities or differences do you notice?

One way to discuss the Chauvin case, for instance, could involve comparing coverage from local, national and international news organizations.

6. Remember learning outcomes

News literacy can give students practice using critical reading and observation skills. It aims to teach students how to think — not what to think — about news and other information (including sensitive issues). And with so many recent breaking and controversial news events that affect students and their communities, learning outcomes for news literacy apply well beyond the classroom.

*           *           *

Journalism documents today’s history. The unprecedented events and major news of the last school year have made teaching news literacy more crucial than ever. The current polarized climate may raise concerns over angry students, parents and guardians, but it also can present opportunities for productive dialogue. While recent events and controversies may feel overwhelming to teach, incorporating news literacy alongside a few simple strategies can help address important stories of the moment while making classroom conversations worthwhile.

Hannah Covington is the senior manager of education and content at the News Literacy Project. Suzannah Gonzales is a university adjunct instructor and former director of education and content at the News Literacy Project.

NLPeople: Niki Lessig, director of development

Niki Lessig, director of development, Washington, D.C.

  1. Can you tell us a little about your background and what brought you to NLP
    I studied international relations and spent two-and-a-half-years with the Peace Corps, working for a women’s reproductive health organization in South Africa. This experience led me back to my hometown, Houston, Texas, to work in community organizing for the AIDS Foundation Houston and eventually in fundraising for Planned Parenthood. During this time, I saw how harmful misinformation was to public health and how false information could be used as a weapon against reproductive health. This is what initially drew me to NLP’s mission.  I am also the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, and this history, along with being Jewish, is a core part of my identity. I heard Eva Haller, an NLP board member and a Holocaust survivor, speak about her courageous story of survival and her reasons for believing in news literacy education. It really resonated with me.
  2.  How (if so) has working for NLP impacted your life or changed your world perspective?
    The NLP team is made up of former journalists and teachers – the smartest people in the world! I try to look at the world through their lenses, continually asking questions and remaining open to learning and growing. I’ve also gotten some great podcast recommendations!
  3. During your years as a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa, you helped to create a computer literacy curriculum for more than 100 adults and children. Do you see a connection between that work and what you do at NLP?
    The community I was based in, Njomelwane, has no running water and little access to electricity. Regardless, the primary school principal’s goal was to be the first village in the area to have a computer lab. It would serve students during the week and transform into an adult learning space on weekends. This was his vision for a path to equity in the community – providing the opportunity for everyone to access and use information. We realized that vision together, and it was and continues to be transformative and empowering for all involved. There is absolutely a connection to NLP’s mission – news and information literacy is a basic right – and I am so proud of the work we do.
  4. What is the most surprising thing you have learned or experienced since joining NLP?
    I don’t know if this is surprising but I have loved meeting NLP’s supporters, many of whom are teachers or journalists. They may be from different areas of the country and hold different political beliefs but they are all committed to strengthening our democracy, and they all believe in the fight for facts.
  5. What news literacy tip, tool or guidance do you most often use?
    Have you met our senior director of education, John Silva? When faced with hard conversations with loved ones who have irrational beliefs, he taught me to use PEP, an approach based on patience, empathy and persistence.It’s not always easy (sometimes it’s more aspirational), but I have tried hard to practice this in my own life, and I repeat this guidance to everyone I know. It has been especially useful while talking to people who are vaccine hesitant or brainstorming with friends and family about how to talk to their vaccine hesitant communities.
  6. What have you been looking forward to the most as we fully emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic?
    For a long time, I would have said travel. Bring on the adventures! But now that I am vaccinated and reemerging into the world, it turns out all I want is hours with loved ones! Time together feels precious and our bodies feel so much more fallible. I am giddy like a little kid to soak in togetherness time, to see how my friends’ children have grown up, to laugh over drinks and to hug my family.
  7. Aside from fighting for facts, what else are you passionate about?
    I am a travel junkie, and I love every step of the journey – from trip planning to navigating the chaos of a new foreign place. Oh, and all the fantastic food and interesting conversation along the way. Before the pandemic, I took a three-week road trip through Morocco and Spain. I learned so much, and I can still taste that tajine. (Tajine is a North African stew of spiced meat and vegetables that is slow-cooked in a covered earthenware dish.)
  8. Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat? Or do you prefer stuffed animals to pets?
    I am team “all fuzzy beings.” I grew up with cats but a few years ago, a friend asked me to foster a Chihuahua for her. Instead, the rescue gave me a giant pit bull named Emmi – 100% muscle and 100% love (see photo for full reaction). I insisted I wasn’t qualified, but somehow, I managed to keep her alive until she was adopted almost six months later. Fast forward five years, rescues are still entrusting me with pups – over 40 foster pups successfully kept alive and adopted! I am still not sure I am qualified.
  9. What one item do you always have in your refrigerator?
    Cheese. Feta, sharp cheddar, halloumi, manchego, parmesan. With one question you have found my weakness.
  10. What’s in your pocket/backpack/laptop case right now?
    It is summer dress season – I have no pockets! But I am obsessed with my News Literacy Project mobile phone wallet, which sticks on the back of my phone and holds my essentials. If you, too, need an NLP phone wallet, let me know.