The News Literacy Project expands into Washington, D.C., at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School


The News Literacy Project (NLP) launched its expansion into Washington, D.C., schools on Tuesday with a kickoff event at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School featuring Gwen Ifill of PBS, who urged students to question the basis for believing what that they see, hear and read.

“How do you know that?” she told the students to ask of any source of information. “What do you base that on? What is the expertise you bring to that?”

Also participating in the event, which was attended by about 50 eighth-grade students taking the NLP unit and more than 40 guests, were Federal Communications Commission member Michael J. Copps; Greg Farmer, vice president for government affairs at Qualcomm Inc.; Jennifer Niles, E.L. Haynes’ founder and head of school; and Alan C. Miller, the News Literacy Project’s president and founder.

“The News Literacy Project at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School is a big deal — I think it’s a very big deal,” Copps said. “We need to be a news-literate people. Democracy’s premise is a well-informed citizenry.

“We can’t govern ourselves without good news and information,” he said, adding: “We need to be able differentiate fact from opinion, and we need to be able to distinguish trustworthy information from untrustworthy.”

Farmer said that Qualcomm, the world leader in 3G and next-generation mobile technologies, has become the lead sponsor of the News Literacy Project’s expansion into the nation’s capital as part of the San Diego-based company’s longstanding commitment to education.

“We clearly see that education is an issue of importance to our business, as well as the country,” Farmer said. “By providing students with the tools they need to succeed, we are educating a workforce that is prepared, can adapt as new jobs evolve and can compete in the global economy.”

NLP brings seasoned journalists into middle school and high school classrooms, where they give students the critical-thinking tools to appreciate the value of quality news coverage and to encourage them to consume and create credible information across all media and platforms.

At E.L. Haynes, one of Washington’s most highly regarded charter schools, NLP is working with teacher Eliza Ford to introduce the project’s original curriculum to two 8th-grade classes.

Niles said Tuesday that NLP supports E.L. Haynes’ mission, which is “to make sure that each student can go to the college of their choice and be life-long learners so they can change the institutions in the U.S. … [and] can be incredible advocates for social justice in the world.”

Ifill is the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and senior correspondent for PBS NewsHour. She spoke to the students and guests Tuesday about journalism and her career and then responded to questions.

“The importance of news literacy is being able to know the difference between someone who already has an opinion, someone who has already reached a conclusion, and someone who is trying to give you the information to form your own conclusion,” she said.

She said she decided to join the News Literacy Project’s board because NLP represents an opportunity to build an appreciation and demand for quality journalism amid the rapidly changing media landscape.

“If we can create another generation of young people who have expectations for what journalism can be … we can say we didn’t just let it slip out of our hands,” Ifill said.

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