The News Literacy Project kicks off its Chicago pilot with an event featuring Clarence Page


In a world saturated with media messages, students need to learn to be literate, critical consumers of what they see and hear.

In an innovative effort to help them sort fact from fiction in the digital age, the News Literacy Project is teaming with one of LISC/Chicago’s five Elev8 schools to launch its Chicago pilot project with an event featuring Clarence Page, the Pulitzer-Prize winning Chicago Tribune columnist.

Clarence Page talks with Marquette students at the kickoff event.

The program brings professional journalists into middle school and high school classrooms, where they give students the tools to appreciate the value of quality news coverage and to encourage them to consume and create credible information across all media.

Students learn how to distinguish verified information from unfiltered messages, opinion, advertising and propaganda — whether they are using search engines to find websites on a particular topic, assessing a viral e-mail, watching television news or reading a newspaper.

“The explosion in the number of information sources makes it harder for people to distinguish among journalists, information spinners and citizen voices,” said David Hiller, president and CEO of the McCormick Foundation, NLP’s major funder in Chicago.

“It is important that students learn how to be savvy consumers of news, so they become more informed decision makers and active participants in our democratic society.”

The Chicago Tribune Foundation is also providing financial support.

The News Literacy Project pilot is being launched at Marquette Elementary School in Southwest Chicago. Teacher Courtney Rogers is introducing NLP’s original curriculum in five sixth-grade classes this month. Journalists will make their initial presentations in these classes in late October.

NLP is partnering with the Chicago office of LISC, a national not-for-profit organization that provides capital and other resources to support the comprehensive development of healthy, stable neighborhoods. LISC/Chicago is considered a national model.

Marquette is one of five inner-city middle schools that LISC is engaged with through the Elev8 program, which brings integrated services, including health care and after-school opportunities, to middle school students.

“The news literacy program must become an essential part of our schools’ curriculum in this age of the knowledge economy,’’ said Andrew J. Mooney, executive director of LISC/Chicago. “We’re delighted to be able to bring it to the communities LISC supports in Chicago.”

NLP completed its initial pilots in middle schools and high schools in New York City and Bethesda, Maryland, last spring and is working in four schools there this fall.

A dozen major news organizations — including The New York Times, NBC News, CNN, NPR, The Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune — have enlisted as participants. Reporters, editors, producers and correspondents from these organizations are among more than 125 prominent journalists, including winners of print and broadcast journalism’s most prestigious awards, who have volunteered to serve as fellows.

The journalists help give students the tools to appreciate the value of quality news coverage. Students learn how to distinguish verified information from unfiltered messages, opinion, advertising and propaganda — whether they are using search engines to find websites on a particular topic, assessing a viral e-mail, watching television news or reading a newspaper.

NLP is forging partnerships between active and retired journalists and social studies, government and English teachers. It is focusing on the importance of news to young people, the role of the First Amendment and a free media in a democracy and the tools needed to discern reliable information amid the myriad sources available today.

It is spearheaded by Alan C. Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter with the Los Angeles Times. The board is chaired by Vivian Schiller, president and CEO of NPR. Former Los Angeles Times Editor John Carroll is vice chairman. The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is the project’s partner and nonprofit fiscal agent.

“The News Literacy Project is designed makes sure that the next generation of Americans can discern all the information coming at them, so that they can become knowledgeable and active citizens,” Schiller said. “We’re thrilled to expand our project to the students of Chicago”

Four major national journalism organizations have endorsed NLP: the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Clarence Page is a syndicated columnist and a member of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board. His column won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1989. During his almost three decades at the Tribune he covered a variety of beats, including police, religion and neighborhood news. He also served as a foreign correspondent and worked as an assistant city editor and an investigative reporter. His column is syndicated in about 150 papers. He has appeared on The McLaughlin Group, The Chris Matthews Show, National Public Radio and PBS’ NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

Students at Marquette Elementary School.

A multicultural neighborhood school on Chicago’s Southwest side, Marquette is an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme school, providing a rigorous interdisciplinary approach to learning that encourages critical thinking. It has joined with the Southwest Organizing Project in one of five school-community partnerships participating in Elev8, which is funded by Atlantic Philanthropies.

“Our students are excited to be the first participants in Chicago in the News Literacy Project,” Marquette Principal Paul O’Toole said. “They are looking forward to meeting Clarence Page and hearing firsthand from him about his past experience in news media and his advice for the future.”

The McCormick Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to strengthening our free, democratic society by investing in children, communities and country. Through its grant-making programs, Cantigny Park and Golf, museums, and civic outreach program, the Foundation helps build a more active and engaged citizenry. It was established as a charitable trust in 1955 upon the death of Col. Robert R. McCormick, the longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The McCormick Foundation is one of the nation’s largest charities, with more than $1 billion in assets.

Click here to read the McCormick Foundation’s blog item about the event.

Click here to read the LISC/Chicago article about the event.


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