New York City students earn NLP’s Gwen Ifill Award

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Paige Rodriguez (center left) and Sophia Fiallo (center right) are this year’s Gwen Ifill Student Journalist of the Year Award honorees. They were joined at the awards luncheon by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota (left) and NLP’s Alan C. Miller (right).

Paige Rodriguez (center left) and Sophia Fiallo (center right) are this year’s Gwen Ifill Student Journalist of the Year Award honorees. They were joined at the awards luncheon by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota (left) and NLP’s Alan C. Miller (right). Photo by Meredith Whitefield.

“Checkology® taught me to seek news rather than receiving it, so I went out and investigated it myself,” Sophia Fiallo told a July 12 awards ceremony at which she and Paige Rodriguez, classmates at The Young Women Leadership School of Astoria, were presented with the News Literacy Project’s Gwen Ifill Student Journalist of the Year Award.

Fiallo was referring to a photograph that appeared to show Emma Gonzalez, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, tearing up the Constitution. In fact, Gonzalez had been photographed ripping up a shooting target. When Fiallo saw that a friend had shared the doctored image online, she says her Checkology training kicked in: “It didn’t come from a reliable news source.”

Fiallo and Rodriguez were presented with their awards — an engraved glass plaque with an etched photo of Ifill, along with a $250 gift card — by Alan C. Miller, NLP’s founder and CEO, at a luncheon at CNN’s New York offices hosted by Alisyn Camerota, co-anchor of CNN’s New Day and a member of NLP’s national advisory council.

The rising 10th-graders, who with their classmates attended the April 16 Pulitzer Prize announcements at Columbia University, have made the news literacy skills they were taught in journalism class a part of their lives. Both share a passion for the lessons they learned from Checkology — and both clearly understand that those lessons also apply beyond the classroom.

Rodriguez said she routinely uses what Checkology has taught her — including, for example, when she saw some news online about an actress on the Netflix series On My Block. Because she hadn’t heard of the site where the news was posted, she used her experience with Checkology to take the piece through a series of credibility tests before sharing it with friends.

Using the platform, Rodriguez said, was “eye-opening”: “Checkology has changed the way that I trust my sources.” In fact, the lessons are now so ingrained that she doesn’t even need them in front of her to know what to ask. Everyone, she said, can benefit from Checkology — “even the older generations.”

Fiallo said that before her news literacy training, she was “vulnerable to the spread of fake news” — but “thanks to Checkology, I’ve learned how to tell fact from fiction.” And, she added, “I’m now interested in pursuing a career in journalism.”

This is the second year that NLP has recognized students with the award, which commemorates the trailblazing journalist — and longtime NLP supporter and board member — who died in 2016. It is presented to female students of color who represent the values Ifill brought to journalism as the first woman and first African-American to serve as moderator of Washington Week and as a member (with Judy Woodruff) of the first female co-anchor team of a network news broadcast on PBS NewsHour. Honorees are selected by a committee of NLP staff and board members.

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