Monday, December 5, 2011

“Really?” Curriculum & Contest

Monday, December 05, 2011

“Baby Bacon,” the baby formula that provides jacked-up nutrition levels…the Bed Bug outbreak hitting hotels in major cities…the $100,000 backpacks purchased by the city of Los Angeles for its emergency responders.

All are news stories that were widely disseminated but based on questionable reporting. Their distribution and impact could have been avoided early on, had reporters – or audience members – simply used common sense and asked “Really?”

One safeguard is material provided by the Radio Television Digital News Foundation meant to teach teens to ask common sense questions about news stories. RTDNF has released an innovative set of News Literacy resources for teachers and students. It also is sponsoring a Public Service Announcement contest with a top prize of $1,000 for the winning student and $1,000 for his or her school. The deadline for entry is Dec. 20. RTDNF’s news literacy work targets educators in school (high school, middle school) as well as in nonprofit, after-school settings. We asked Carol Knopes, education director for the RTDNF, to describe what drives the Really? initiative.

Really? is the first question that should come to mind when teens get a text, Tweet, blog, rumor from a friend or a story from the New York Times. Any information at all. Students should certainly ask it before passing along any information. After ‘Really?’, we want teens to ask five other simple questions:
·         Who said it?
·         Can I trust that person? 
·         Is that person biased on this subject? 
·         Am I biased on this subject?
·         Where can I go to get more reliable information to make my decision about this information?

We know that the best way to teach teens important journalistic concepts is through hands-on work.  Our students have to understand the Really? approach to news literacy before they can start writing their scripts and shooting their video PSAs. We’re looking forward to seeing some creative, sometimes serious, sometime funny takes on how to sort through the deluge of texts, Tweets, blogs, gossip, websites, cable news, broadcast news and newspapers.

Knopes hopes that teachers around the country will adopt these lesson plans and participate in the PSA contest. “We know that teachers are very busy this time of year. Teachers can choose the parts of the webinar and the parts of the lesson plan that they want to present. Their students will see TV news stories that would never have been broadcast if someone had just asked ‘Really?’ We think this is the kind of program that students will very quickly understand and put into practice.”

For more information, go to RTDNF’s High School Broadcast Journalism Project’s website, at

--by Mark Hallett, senior program officer 

Read the full story

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

News Literacy: “We Need to Be Teaching This”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Professor Lyn Millner of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) reflects on a Nov. 2 news literacy workshop for high school educators. With a McCormick grant, FGCU is carrying out a news literacy program that helps connect classrooms with journalists via video conferencing. Teachers nationwide can apply to participate in the program here:

Our news literacy night for high school educators went very well. The upshot is that most of the educators plan to institute at least some of the concepts in their classes immediately. I also learned that the new Lee County School Superintendent would be very receptive to learning about how we're teaching news literacy at Florida Gulf Coast University.

I gave the educators an intro to news literacy—what it is and why it matters—using much of what's in Stony Brook's introductory lecture. I told them how our course has made a difference with students. 

The reaction from the high school teachers was overwhelmingly positive. Lots of nods and "we need to be teaching this." Nearly all of the teachers said they planned to begin integrating some of these lessons in their current classes. All were grateful for Stony Brook's course materials. (Thank you, Dean and Liz!)

Jennifer Reed, a teacher at South Fort Myers High School told me: “My kids are 18, they're about to go into the world, and it scares me [that they don't have news literacy skills]. Instead, we're teaching them texts such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.”

Our discussion naturally broadened to how FGCU's new journalism program can help the high schools in other areas of journalism. Journalism faculty member Rick Kenney led a discussion about specific skills we might address in a spring workshop for high school students. Rick is teaching Journalism & Society (our news literacy course) this year, along with writing, and media law and ethics.

In addition to high school educators, several community members attended, including Paula Sklodowski, an outreach person with WGCU public media; Byron Yake with Write-on Sports; Tony Majeri, retired from the Chicago Tribune and keenly interested in helping FGCU set up a summer high school journalism skills workshop; and David Steckler, on faculty at FGCU and working with Byron to start a middle-school program.

Lyn Millner, Assistant Professor, Journalism, Florida Gulf Coast University

Stay tuned for more updates on FGCU’s  work in news literacy education.

Read the full story

Monday, November 21, 2011

Prison: Reflections on the Exhibit of Chicago photographer Lloyd DeGrane

Monday, November 21, 2011

  • A wide angle view of the inner atrium of Stateville Correctional Center’s F House, the prison’s old roundhouse, with four floors of cells facing a central watch tower
  • The scarred face of an inmate who’s been knifed and shot to the skull. His claim to fame? He’s never gone down.
  • A display of weapons made by inmates on the premises.
  • An intimate portrait of an artist inmate, looking defiant but introspective, his painting of a black Jesus on the wall behind him.
These are some of the provocative images taken over a decade by Chicago photographer Lloyd DeGrane and now on display in a stunning exhibit at Roosevelt University’s Gage Gallery. The exhibit includes letters that inmate Simon (“Sam G.”) Gutierrez wrote to DeGrane over the course of many years, detailing life in the prison. The pictures document how inmates are herded through a Chicago holding cell and moved to the Joliet receiving cell (“a parade of buses every Friday morning between 9-10 a.m. on Interstate 55 surrounded by state police cars”). Once inside, prisoners are shackled and assigned a state facility.
At the opening, DeGrane addressed the crowd.  A few takeaways:
  • As a photographer, he carried just one medium format camera and lens, a light tripod. He always asked permission and walked slowly, never moving fast, around the prison.
  • The prison environment stands out for its sounds (“People yelling, screaming, blurting things out.”) and the smells (“Human waste, sweat, blood, rotten food. The things that thousands of men leave behind.”)
  • This isn’t about an innocence project, or about the wrongfully convicted or unjustly sent to prison, DeGrane said.  These people were murderers, rapists, child molesters, all walking around with you. “This project is about the people you want to see locked up,” he said. “The people you don’t want to see late at night when it’s you and nobody else around.” 

DeGrane used data to illustrate the vastness of the prison system. The U.S. represents 5 percent of the world’s population, he said, but has 25 percent of the world’s prison population. There are now 2.25 million people behind bars, plus 5 million out on parole (“the equivalent of Chicago locked up, suburbanites on parole”).
He wants viewers to walk away with a better understanding of where their taxes are going. “I want you to know what happens behind the 32-foot wall, and of the journey that people – especially the poor – go through in these places.”

The exhibit is at 18 S. Michigan Avenue and will be up through Feb. 4, 2012. For more information, go to

–Mark Hallett, senior program officer

Read the full story

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dec. 2 Press Conference for High School Journalists at Roosevelt University

Friday, November 11, 2011

Great opportunity for a high school journalism students to practice their reporting skills and tour Roosevelt University's new building. Information about the event is below: 

Roosevelt University is currently building the second tallest university building in the country.  Our vertical campus in Chicago’s Loop will have dorm rooms for 633 students, classrooms, modern science laboratories, recreational facilities, a cafeteria, great views of the city, and much more.
Students working on their high school newspapers and their advisors are invited to attend a press briefing and tour this innovative new building which is certain to attract national attention when it opens for classes this August.

10:30 AM, Friday, December 2
Press Conference, Tour and Lunch
Roosevelt University
430 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago

This is a great opportunity for students to participate in a press conference and private tour before the building is open to the public.  In addition, it will allow them to write about a new building which could benefit their classmates.

Reservations are required.

Please call 312-341-3510 with questions and to let us know who will attend.

We look forward to seeing reporters and editors on December 2.
Tom Karow, Assistant Vice President, Public Relations, Roosevelt University

Read the full story

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Town Hall Meeting: “Not Hiring: The Plight of Jobless Teens.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In the middle of what some consider the harshest job environment for teenagers in the post-World War II period, a leading youth journalism program hosted a Nov. 2 town hall to engage elected officials, nonprofit groups, school leadership, and dozens of teens from across the city – in a spirited discussion to explore this complex issue.

Moderated by veteran journalist Laura Washington, the town hall navigated topics ranging from global shifts in where jobs are located to changes in government funding of workforce development, to the multiple ways that odds are stacked against teens and the on-the-ground reality of how they view the job hunt.

What stood out – besides the clear commitment of the adults in the room, was the resourcefulness and determination of the teen panelists.

As well as the difficulty of their plight.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the summer employment rate for teens age 16-19 was 30 percent in 2011. In 2000, the employment rate for that same age group nationally was 52 percent.

If anyone entered the discussion thinking that teen jobs are simply about having a little spending money, that idea was done away with in the Columbia Links video that opened the event. “I’m my own guardian – so I have to financially support myself,” a Chicago high school student told the assembly from the screen.

Panelists at the event included Jack Wuest, executive director for the Alternative Schools Network; Jhatayn Travis, executive director of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization; Anton Seals, senior associate for Congressman Bobby Rush; and Black Star Project founder and executive director Phillip Jackson.

Student panelists included Lincoln Park High School seniors Donnell McLachlan and Ashley Walker; Chevelle Blackburne, a senior at Kenwood Academy; and Natalia Yarbrough, a student at Richard J. Daley City College.

Also in the house were State Representatives Esther Golar and La Shawn K. Ford.

So how bad is the teen unemployment situation? Bad enough that some worry that a generation is losing the opportunity at that first job early in life.

The 17-24 year-old age group, Seals explained, is when you learn to be employed. “Not being employed can also become a habit after a while. This has been changing since 2007. Now we’re seeing so many teens unemployed, and even their parents can’t find jobs. For some it’s to provide for a family, for others to start a career.”

“Youth have been really hammered in the summer,’ said Wuest of the Alternative Schools Network. “The economy’s broken, and it’s also not employing millions of adults. Incomes have stayed the same or gone down. Corporations have found they can make money, and are sitting on trillions of dollars. But youth are hammered worse than other groups.”

“In the 60s and 70s, you could drop out of school and still get a job in a factory,’ he said. “But those jobs have been replaced by low-paying service jobs.”

What’s happened to support to teen employment initiatives, Washington asked KOCO executive director Travis. “There’s been substantial disinvestment in funding for youth employment initiatives over the past two decades,” she responded.

“Working has a profound impact on the quality of life for young people, but also for the overall quality of life of their communities,” she said. “Each year when it gets warmer and violence escalates again, there’s suddenly a movement to support youth employment. Let’s start earlier.”

Washington asked Jackson of The Black Star Project about the other issues at play influencing high teen unemployment. He takes a decidedly global perspective on it. “I’m out in the ‘hood, but also across the globe,’ he said. “When we were young, the US was a certain country. We’d beat down other countries to have an artificially high standard of living,’ he explained. “But that’s done. We absolutely cannot compete with the rest of the world that way. We must start in our community, in schools, and look into the economic stream, then things will work out.”

“There are 75 million young globally people without jobs,’ Jackson said. “That means that each of you is competing with 75 million other young people. If you expect someone to give you a job, it’s not going to happen. We need to be more holistic. Government is important, but this must be community driven.”

The students on the panel were impressive for their analysis, poise and resourcefulness. Several said that they feel it’s important to not get caught up in the short-term benefits of a low-wage job but to stay focused on long-term goals instead.

Donnell McLachlan of Lincoln Park HS said that he’s not looking for work right now, because he wants to focus more on his education. “I’m looking for internships in journalism. This is helping to set me up for a major.”

Teens seeking work compete not only with one another, but with many over-qualified adults looking for work. Other factors are stacked against them too. For example, Chicago’s new, stricter curfew law means that those under 17 cannot be outside or in a public place after 10 p.m. week nights and after 11 p.m. weekends. This restricts many job options. Another issue hurting teen employment is the city’s violence. Returning home late at night can be prohibitively dangerous.

Washington asked: Are teens a second priority for policymakers? Certainly, several panelists answered. Wuest explained that over the past decade, when the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) came into effect, the number of federally funded summer jobs for teenagers has declined significantly. We talk about the surge in Iraq, he said, but “If we did the same here, we could put 1 million of our most disadvantaged youth to work. If we can do it in Iraq, why not here in our own country?”

Black Star and several other groups are training young people in entrepreneurship. “This is what should be taught in high school, in elementary school,’ Jackson said. “Not to grow up and get a job, but grow up and find a way to sustain a family and contribute to society.” Big business employs fewer people than small business, he said.

A TrueStar youth from the audience said his mother had taught him you’re never too young to work. At the same time, it’s about building your resume, not always taking that $8.50 an hour job. “It’s about making a difference, not money,” he said. “Once you have that concept in your head, better things happen.”

“It’s unfortunate for the young born in a time like this,’ said Jackson of The Black Star Project. But his message was one of hope. “Young people must push their legislators. You’ll have to occupy LaSalle Street and you’ll have to take inspiration from this hardship and go out and make it. It’s our job, too, we cannot leave you out here by yourselves.”

Brenda Butler, executive director of Columbia Links, closed by holding up the most recent issue of the youth-produced magazine R-Wurd, at 52 pages, the largest edition yet. “Hope we all leave with food for thought and plans for action. Take home a leaflet. Take steps – write letters, make sure that lawmakers hear your voices.”

To learn more about the Columbia Links journalism program, visit

McCormick Journalism Program grantees:
Columbia Links
Free Spirit Media

--by Mark Hallett, senior program officer 

Read the full story

Monday, October 31, 2011

Events as Journalism

Monday, October 31, 2011

It’s a chilly, fall Thursday night, yet more than 80 people have packed an auditorium in the Experimental Station’s location at 61st and Blackstone on Chicago’s south side. They’re here to hear author Ralph Richard Banks discuss his provocative new book “Is Marriage for White People? How the African American marriage decline affects everyone.” Banks is an informed and engaging speaker, and his earnest style hide his controversial thesis that black women could do themselves – and black marriage rates - a favor by seeking partners of other races.

It’s a well-moderated, informative discussion on a timely and important topic. But it raises a question outside of the realm of Banks’ book: Are events journalism? Though the question harkens back to the early ‘90s, when Civic Journalism was the rage, it seems much more at home in today’s world when journalists are eager to engage audiences and are more comfortable with breaking taboos and barriers.
In an essay from July of this year on the Nieman Journalism Lab web site, Andrew Phelps describes how Evan Smith at the Texas Tribune has brought back ‘blogs, multimedia, troves of government data, and something old-fashioned for an online news startup: face-to-face conversations.’
Since its founding in 2009, Phelps explains, the Tribune has hosted more than 60 events. “Events are journalism – events are content,’ Smith told Nieman. “And in this new world, content comes to you and you create it in many forms.” 

Plus, in this shoestring budget era, they can become an important source of revenue.
“Sometimes people want to learn about things by reading about them,’ says Jan Schaffer, executive director of American University’s J-LAB. “ And sometimes people want to learn about things by watching something or listening to someone, without a reporter intervening. The act of meeting and learning from one another seems to me to be an easy fit with journalism.  The act of interviewing a newsmaker in person in front of an audience is also an act of journalism.”
The interview with Banks explores the ‘precipitous’ decline in marriage amongst middle class African Americans because no one, he says, had focused much attention on the topic. He explores the cultural and economic reasons that marriage has declined amongst African Americans, why black women feel compelled to marry within their race, the power dynamic that takes place when members of a larger group marry partners in a demographic that is in short supply, and some of the reasons that have kept black women from seeking out partners of other races. The audience is eager to jump in with questions and comments.
As host Jamie Kalven said in introductory remarks: “Tonight is one in a series of occasional public conversations meant to escape convention. To create a space where it’s possible to explore challenges and concepts. You’re not an audience, you’re participants in a conversation.”

--Mark Hallett, senior program officer

Read the full story

Friday, October 28, 2011

Upcoming Nov. 1 Panel Discussion on Balancing Facts and Faith

Friday, October 28, 2011

The News Literacy Project is teaming up with Chicago's Northside College Prep High School to host a panel discussion event on Covering Religion: How to Balance Facts and Faith in the Search for Truth.

The event starts at 7 pm on Nov. 1, 2011 at the Northside College Prep Auditorium.

NLP invites high school journalism students to cover this event and interview the panelists. They'll even help you arrange an interview. For more information, go to

Read the full story

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Teachers: Apply to Participate in a Face-to-Face Conversation with a Journalist

Thursday, October 27, 2011

We're pleased to announce a new news literacy program that helps connect classrooms with journalists via video conferencing. 

New Journalism Program Receives $42,000 Grant from the McCormick Foundation to Lead Virtual Conversations with Hard-to-Reach Journalists

FORT MYERS, FL -Florida Gulf Coast University’s newly created journalism program has been awarded a $42,000 grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation to launch Face-to-Face: Conversations with Journalists. The grant will allow high school, undergraduate and graduate students from across the United States to talk virtually with journalists who have covered news in hard-to-reach areas. 

“These are journalists whom students would never otherwise meet,” said Lyn Millner, who leads FGCU’s journalism program and who created the project. “Students will learn how these reporters make decisions, verify information and report the truth—especially in challenging environments.”

FGCU will partner with Poynter’s News University in St. Petersburg, Fla., and with Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy in Long Island, NY, to produce the Face-to-Face conversations. Millner and new associate professor of journalism Rick Kenney will develop companion teaching resource materials as part of the project.

“We welcome FGCU to our grantee portfolio,” said McCormick Foundation Journalism Program Director Clark Bell. “News literacy anchors our strategy of building a more informed, news-literate and engaged citizenry. We expect the FGCU-Stony Brook-Poynter collaboration will make a major contribution to the effort.” 

Face-to-Face is part of a national news literacy education movement, which FGCU has brought to southwest Florida. FGCU is one of only two higher-education institutions in Florida that are formally involved with Stony Brook’s Center for News Literacy. 

“Poynter NewsU is excited that these conversations will be a resource for teachers from around the world,” said Howard Finberg, News University’s Director of Interactive Learning.

The first Face-to-Face conversation will be held in January 2012. High schools and universities may apply to participate in a Face-to-Face conversation at Poynter’s NewsU:

For more information contact Lyn Millner at (239) 590-7257 or

About Florida Gulf Coast University
Florida Gulf Coast University, a member of the State University System of Florida, is a comprehensive university created to address the educational needs of the rapidly growing Southwest Florida population. FGCU continuously pursues academic excellence, practices and promotes environmental sustainability, embraces diversity, nurtures community partnerships, values public service, encourages civic responsibility, cultivates habits of lifelong learning, and keeps the advancement of knowledge and pursuit of truth as noble ideals at the heart of the university’s purpose.

About the Robert R. McCormick Foundation
The Robert R. McCormick Foundation is committed to fostering communities of educated, informed and engaged citizens. Through philanthropic programs, Cantigny Park and museums, the Foundation helps develop citizen leaders and works to make life better in our communities. The Foundation was established as a charitable trust in 1955, upon the death of Colonel Robert R. McCormick, the longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The Robert R. McCormick Foundation is one of the nation's largest foundations, with more than $1 billion in assets. For more information, please visit
About Poynter’s News University
Poynter’s News University ( offers training to journalists, journalism students, teachers and the public through more than 225 interactive e-learning modules and other forms of training. It has more than 195,000 registered users in 225 countries.
The Poynter Institute trains journalism practitioners, media leaders, educators and citizens in the areas of online and multimedia, leadership and management, reporting, writing and editing, TV and radio, ethics and diversity, journalism education and visual journalism. Poynter's website, ( is the dominant provider of journalism news, with a focus on business analysis and the opportunities and implications of technology.

Read the full story

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chicago Town Hall Stresses Safety in the Online World

Monday, October 24, 2011

With more than 700 million users worldwide, Facebook has emerged as the single largest online teen forum. With that comes all of the richness of teen life—the bonding, sharing, and exploring – but also the gossip, flirting and drama.

And yes, the bullying too.

In a crowded auditorium in Chicago’s Field Museum on Oct. 18, a forum presented by Common Sense Media (a San Francisco-based nonprofit that helps kids and families navigate the world of media and technology), Yahoo! Safely, and MTV’s A Thin Line explored not only what damage is done by cyberbullying but also what teens, teachers and parents can do in response.

Sponsored by the MacArthur and McCormick Foundations, and supported by Chicago Public Schools, SCE and Beyondmedia Education, the “Stand Up to Cyberbullying” town hall engaged a live audience of more than 400 Chicago teens. More than 3,500 others followed the live stream. Youth represented Free Spirit Media, Boys and Girls Clubs, the communities of Englewood and Pilsen, and the Southwest Youth Collaborative.

The audience viewed a short clip of “Your Social Life,” a video documentary on the topic of cyberbullying created by Beyondmedia Education, a Chicago nonprofit that works with under-represented women, youth and communities to tell their stories. (To see a clip of “Your Social Life,” click 

Moderated by MTV News correspondent SuChin Pak, the panel included:
  • John E. Connolly – Education Technology Director, Chicago Public Schools
  • Mike Hawkins – YouMedia Coordinator/Lead Mentor
  • Rosalind Moore – parent
  • Tiffany Witkowski – Senior, Von Steuben High School
  • Montel Williams – recent graduate of North Lawndale College Prep High School
Hands across the crowd of 400 shot up when SuChin Pak began by asking how many teens present use Facebook. And asked how many were personally aware of cyberbullying incidents, a surprising 1/3 or so went up.

Tiffany Witkowski was asked what she learned in the process of working on the documentary “Your Social Life.” She responded that the biggest surprise what that the phenomenon known as ‘sexting’ is considered cyberbullying and can actually have legal consequences. “If you’re under the age of 18 and you send these photos, forward them, even just have them in your cell phone, you can be put on a sex offender’s list, can’t go to certain schools, can’t live in certain communities… I was shocked.”

Mike Hawkins, a lead mentor at Chicago’s innovative YouMedia space (an innovative teen learning space at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library), explained that part of the problem is that youth enter the digital world with no guidance. “Kids aren’t taught the critical aspects of media – what it is, how to navigate it. They’re left to their own accord.”

The panel included a mother of two teenagers, Rosalind Moore, who is also a program manager for Teamwork Englewood, a nonprofit organization. When asked what rules she enforces around social media use at home, she explained that when her kids were younger, there was simply a time limit. No computer before homework.

“But as they got older,’ she explained, ‘the rules lessened. Lots of parents want their children’s passwords. I never did that. We just had an agreement that they’d come to me if things got out of hand.”
Both of her children personally experienced incidences of cyberbullying – her daughter when her Facebook account was hacked by an ex-boyfriend, and her son when classmates took photos meant to mock him on a class trip and posted them online.

When asked if she is currently Facebook friends with her children, Ms. Moore responded (to the laughter of the audience) that she is not - but is friends with all of their friends.

As head of Education Technology for the Chicago Public Schools, panelist John Connolly has a unique perspective on the issue. Asked how he’s working with schools and teachers around cyberbullying in the country’s third largest school system, Connolly said that CPS is rolling out a curriculum in partnership with Common Sense Media.

“Four or five years ago,’ he explained, ‘the concept was ‘Let’s block this site.’ Now it’s moving toward ‘Let’s leverage these sites and educate our kids through curriculum in a controlled environment, to show them how to leverage the technology in a responsible way.’”

In that time, a lot has changed. This point was driven home when Pak asked Montel Williams, a recent high school graduate, how social media is different today than when he started in high school. Williams explained that at that time, he had an email account, but no Facebook page, and he wasn’t texting either.
But while most teens choose to be engaged in Facebook and other social media, some are opting out altogether. Witkowski said that she no longer has a Facebook page. “I found it pointless. I was getting mildly harassed on Facebook. That was my solution for getting rid of the cyberbullying. It’s perplexing to me that everyone is so fascinated with what everyone else is doing.”

Pak asked the panelists how online and face-to-face bullying relate to one another. 

Williams explained that it can be easier to deal with in-person bullying. Many of today’s bullies hide behind the anonymity of the web.

“It’s almost cool to be mean today,’ Witkowski responded. “It’s so easy to bully online.  Today’s fist fights often start online.”

How do we start to figure out ways to build more positive communities online? 

“It starts at home,” Witkowski explained. “But if you can’t talk with a parent about it, you can talk with a teacher who knows you, knows the kind of work you produce, knows when you’re having an off day.” Ideally, there would be safe communities online where teachers could help resolve problems early on.
Such alternative online spaces exist, Hawkins said. At YouMedia and at the Hive Chicago (a network of museums, libraries and other groups creating youth-oriented digital learning spaces), students can maintain their Facebook page but also participate in alternative networks. “You can be mentored and understand you’re here to create, share and collaborate. These are safe spaces where you can engage and learn and share with your peers.”

When asked how schools respond to cases of cyberbullying, Connolly explained: “We encourage students, when bullied, to let parents and teachers know. When teachers see this occurring, we encourage them to work with the two students.”

At the same time though, let’s remember not to be too tough on the bullies, Moore stressed. “Hurt people hurt people. The person bullying is also affected. People who are happy and engaged and have full lives don’t think about ways to hurt someone. So we need to think – as teachers, friends and mentors – that the person hurting others is also hurting.”

It’s important that adults pay attention to this area - both the richness of it as well as the pitfalls and dangers. As Connie Yowell, director of education at the MacArthur Foundation put it in her introductory comments: “It’s a different day with digital media. These are incredibly powerful learning tools. You don’t want to say ‘turn it off.’ They’re tools for participation. So we want to say to parents: Participate. Be in there with your kids.”

--Mark Hallett, senior program officer

To see the entire town hall, click here:

McCormick Foundation Journalism Program grantees mentioned in this article:
Beyondmedia Education (
Common Sense Media (
Free Spirit Media (

Did You Know?
Common Sense Media makes resources available to help parents, teachers and teens address the issue of cyberbullying.
  • Download CSM’s cyberbullying toolkit at to access materials that you can use in your classroom
  • If you attended the event, you can get 1 CPDU by completing the forms online at CPS University
  • Teens
  • Learn more about your digital rights at
  • Join Hive Chicago’s youth social network by signing up at YouMedia at the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State Street

Read the full story

Monday, October 17, 2011

Townhall on Teen Unemployment: Presented by Columbia Links, Nov. 2, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Join the teen reporters from Columbia Links as they bring people together with their stories to find solutions to the plight of teen joblessness.The students will be hosting a town hall meeting on Nov. 2, 2011 at 618 S. Michigan Ave., Stage 2, starting at 5:30 p.m.  

In the meantime, check out the stories of Columbia Links students, who have worked tirelessly on their stories this past year. In addition to launching R_Wurd magazine.

The teen unemployment rate is several times higher than that of the national unemployment rate.

Read the full story

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Say What? Young Chicago Authors Report on Segregation in Chicago

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Earlier this summer, Young Chicago Authors held its Say What Summer Institute summer wrap party at Navy Pier. Founded in 2002, Say What Magazine, a publication of Young Chicago Authors, gives teens the journalism tools and skills that they need to report, document and tell the stories that impact their lives and communities.

Students took on a reporting project with WBEZ's discussing segregation in Chicago. You can view the work of the students here. We love seeing great content collaborations between youth journalism organizations and community news. Keep up the great work!

Read the full story

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Strengthening Community News in Chicago

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This summer, the University of North Carolina’s “Business Models for Community News in a Digital Age” initiative produced three workshops for community and ethnic media in Chicago.

This initiative harnesses the skills of UNC professor Penny Abernathy and journalism students who helped small, rural North Carolina community newspaper develop an Internet presence and provide lessons learned for similar news organizations.

Like their counterparts across the country in urban and rural settings alike, smaller community and ethnic news organizations in Chicago have struggled to establish a digital strategy. From July to September, Abernathy hosted a series of  seminars at the Community Workshop that shared lessons learned from local Chicago news organizations including, Hi India, Extra and the Chicago Crusader. Missed the presentation? Download the PowerPoint slideshow and video from the seminar.

Read the full story

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Open Youth Networks: Finalist in Apps for Metro Chicago Contest

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

We're excited to hear that Open Youth Networks at Columbia College has been named one of ten finalists in Apps for Metro Chicago, sponsored by the Mayor's Office

Developed by Open Youth Networks with a team of women software engineers and students from Columbia College, IIT and UIC, Mi Parque - Little Village is a bilingual participatory placemaking web and smartphone application that helps residents of Little Village ensure that their new park is maintained as a vibrant, safe, open and healthy green space for the community. 

It's great to see creative innovation at the intersection of community engagement and technology. 

Like Mi Parque?  Public voting is live until October 14th, 5 p.m.

The voting process involves: 

  1. Creating a login by clicking here:
  2. Voting for at least 3 and no more than 5 of the ten finalists in the community round. Therefore, review the apps first here:
  3. OYN will donate any prize money to its community partner, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.

Learn More

Apps for Metro Chicago site:

Read the full story

Monday, October 10, 2011

Apply Now for $35,000-$50,000 to Host a Reporting Workshop

Monday, October 10, 2011

Have an idea for a workshop for journalists? The Robert R. McCormick Foundation, in partnership with The Poynter Institute, welcomes applications from universities, journalism organizations and others to develop two-day training programs on key topics in 2012. Learn more and apply now to host a Specialized Reporting Institute in 2012.

Specialized Reporting Institutes (SRIs) are designed to meet the growing need to provide journalists and others with subject-specific expertise and practical reporting training on issues in the news. This year’s hosts conducted training for reporters on these topics:

  • Covering the impact of the economic crisis on American families (Suburban Newspapers of America Foundation/Associated Press Managing Editors Foundation)
  • Tracking stimulus dollars and covering the budget crisis in your community (Boston University/New England Center for Investigative Reporting)
  • Covering public pensions (Society of American Business Editors and Writers)
  • Political polling (American University School of Communication)
  • Census coverage: Going deep with demographic and economic data (Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University)
  • Covering Islam in the Bible Belt (Middle Tennessee State University School of Journalism)
  • Elections 2012:  The campaign for social media, a workshop planned for Oct. 25-27 (The Poynter Institute).
Applications are being accepted from universities, non-profits, training groups and others who would like to host an SRI in 2012.  For details, go to Apply by Nov. 15.

Read the full story

Upcoming Town Hall Meeting on Jobless Teens

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mark your calendar for an upcoming town hall meeting on teen jobs, hosted by our friends at Columbia LINKS.

Columbia Links, a teen reporting academy, invites you to its town hall meeting, "Not Hiring: The Plight of Jobless Teens," moderated by journalist and media commentator Laura Washington at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011. The evening will also launch the newest edition of R_Wurd, the teen magazine produced by Columbia Links students.

The latest government figures show teen unemployment at 25.4 percent nationwide in August 2011, nearly triple that of other major worker groups: adult men (8.9 percent), adult women (8.0 percent). Overall, 14 million Americans or 9.1 percent remain mired in joblessness. 

And numbers for summer 2011 are even bleaker for black teens: 46.5 percent in August, up from 39.2 percent in July, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.

The discussion is just beginning. Now let's act. We welcome your participation on Nov. 2.

Guests confirmed:
Jack Wuest of the Alternative School Network and who commissioned the Center for Labor Market study on teens and unemployment.
Jhatayn Travis, executive director of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization and part of the coalition of community groups that sponsored teen hears and marches to Springfield and Washington this summer. 
U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush and/or Anton Seals, Cong. Rush's District Program Manager,  sponsor on teens and employment on the federal level.
Phillip Jackson, president and founder of the Black Star Project.
Teen panelists

Pending guests:
Andrea Zopp, president of the Chicago Urban League.
State Rep. Esther Golar, sponsor of the Teen Unemployment Bill 3631 on the state level.
The Office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel
School Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard

So SAVE THE DATE for the Columbia Links town hall meeting and launch of the newest edition of R_Wurd (the Columbia Links teen magazine):
"Not Hiring: The Plight of Jobless Teens
5:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 2, 2011
Stage 2 at Columbia College Chicago
618 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago 60605

Also, check out the Columbia Links site at and see the video on jobless teens titled "The Summer Blues" (it's the one with the male teen standing in front of the Best Buy store).

Read the full story

Friday, October 7, 2011

Loyola Hosts Diversity Sports Media Institute

Friday, October 07, 2011

Students in action during the Diversity Sports Media Institute at Loyola this summer.
With support from the McCormick Foundation, Loyola’s School of Communication hosted a sports journalism camp for Chicago high school students from Aug. 1-5. As part of the Diversity Sports Media Institute at Indiana University School of Journalism, a group of 12 juniors and seniors spent a week interviewing top names in professional sports and learning how to share stories from the sidelines. 

In the past, the camp has only taken place at Indiana University, but Don Heider, dean of the School of Communication, and Ralph Braseth, clinical professor of journalism, were asked if they would be interested in hosting the workshop. Heider and Braseth took the opportunity because of its close alignment with the University’s mission to partner with the surrounding community. The students spent the week gathering information for two projects: six of the students are designing a “highly functional website” and the other six are producing a TV show. Check out a sample of their writing and blogs on their website.

Read the full story

Monday, August 29, 2011

Opening Doors for Chicago News: A frank dialogue on access and Freedom of Information Act

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Chicago Headline Club will host “Opening doors for Chicago news: A frank dialogue on access and Freedom of Information Act” from 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 17 at Loyola University's downtown Water Tower campus.

The forum is a follow-up to the survey commissioned by the Headline Club revealing the ongoing struggle the media faces when trying to get public information from state and local officials. Forum organizers hope to reach an understanding of how to get access to officials and information.

Speakers will include, press officials representing the City of Chicago, the Cook County Board President and the Illinois Attorney General and a panel of key journalists from major Chicago news outlets.
The forum will begin at 9:30 a.m. with a continental breakfast. Admission is free, but reservations are suggested by emailing

Download the executive summary of the Reporters’ Rights and Access Survey here.
In the coming months, the Headline Club will hold a follow-up workshop on how to access needed information using Freedom of Information laws.

Read the full story

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New York City Digital Waves Youth Media Festival

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The LAMP, Radio Rookies, RHI Radio and Radio Rootz hosted the first New York City Digital Waves Youth Media Festival last month. The goal was to bring youth together to exchange ideas and experience new kinds of media. More than 100 young people participated in a variety of sessions and panels including:
  • Audio in games, films, docs and more
  • Different tools, different news
  • DIY DIF (Do it Yourself, Do it Free)
  • Jobs Jobs Jobs
Click here to read the festival’s blog.
Click here to see photos.

Read the full story

Monday, August 1, 2011

Foundation recipient of Walmart grant to help Chicago Youth

Monday, August 01, 2011

On June 23, the Walmart Foundation launched an initiative to expand summer services for children in Chicago. The organization announced $1.8 million in grants that will help provide meals as well as learning and employment services for students while they are on summer break. The funding is part of a nationwide, $25 million initiative to expand nutrition, learning and employment services for elementary, middle and high school students throughout the summer months. Recipients of the Chicago grant included the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, which will put Walmart’s $500,000 grant and additional funding from The Chicago Community Trust toward the One Summer Chicago program. The funding will support 344 subsidized summer jobs for low income youth in four communities: Garfield Park, Englewood, Woodlawn and Little Village. One Summer Chicago is a collaborative effort between the City, County, civic and business communities to provide summer programming for youths. Read more about Walmart's grant here.

Read the full story

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Journalism Program will host upcoming funders meeting

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The McCormick Foundation is one of the co-hosts for the Journalism Funders meeting held in Chicago this year. The meeting convenes funders who support journalism and media at a number of levels—some are major investors, like the Knight and McCormick foundations, and others like the California Endowment invest in journalism as a means for communicating health information and as an agent for policy change. The meeting, which will take place July 20-21, 2011, will feature roundtable discussions on key issues facing journalism funders, as well as networking and collaboration among funders. MacArthur Foundation, Driehaus Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust are co-hosts.

Read the full story

Monday, July 11, 2011

NYC Digital Waves Youth Media Festival

Monday, July 11, 2011

New York youth media groups are invited to come together, exchange ideas and collaborate as Radio Rookies, Radio Rootz, RHI Radio and The LAMP prepare to host the NYC Digital Waves Youth Media Festival on Saturday July 30th at WNYC’s The Greene Space.
This year’s festival will focus on audio, including using a smartphone to record audio, how to incorporate sound into a project and how to critique an audio piece.
For more information, and to register, click here.

Read the full story

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

3 Chicago High School Students Win Investigative Journalism Scholarships

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Congratulations to Regine Capungan and Jamilah Alsharif from Northside College Preparatory High School, and Leyly Gomez from Foreman High School!

These Chicago-area students were selected to attend the Summer Investigative Journalism Workshop for High School Students. This workshop will be hosted by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.

The workshop will be held in two sessions from July 11-August 5th. For more information click here.

Read the full story

Friday, June 10, 2011

OMG: Taking students from digital users to good digital citizens

Friday, June 10, 2011

Technology is giving students the power to do things that other generations couldn’t have ever imagined. But with this new power comes new challenges such as, recognizing spin from fact and knowing how to identify verified news sources.
This summer, the McCormick Foundation Journalism program is partnering with experts at San Francisco-based Common Sense Media (CSM) to develop a Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum for Chicago communities.
CSM’s summer activities include helping train educators to teach students how to be safe, respectful and responsible digital citizens. A recent webinar presented to Chicago Public Schools educators offers guidance and lesson plans covering online safety, creating strong passwords, evaluating online information, and searching effectively for news and information.
The webinar and summer prep kit will be available for viewing at this link.
Additional digital literacy and citizenship resources can be found here.

Read the full story

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Reporters: Apply Now for the Covering Islam in the Bible Belt Training

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Covering the topic of Islam is becoming an increasingly challenging assignment for journalists. To help those who report on issues involving Muslim communities, the McCormick Foundation, through its Specialized Reporting Institute program, is sponsoring a conference and workshop, featuring veteran reporters and experts in Islamic history and culture.

The Middle Tennessee State Univ. School of Journalism is hosting the event which will take place Aug. 21-23, 2011. Participants, limited to 24 and selected through an application process, will have their travel, lodging, meals and tuition covered. Preference will be given to journalists who work in the South and Chicago-area journalists.

For more information and to apply, please click here

Read the full story

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Director's Notes: This One Astounds Me

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The government has become the chief user of the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Office, with 63 percent of the caseload seeking authorization to deny Freedom of Information requests entirely or in part. The Daily Herald’s Jake Griffin said public officials continue to attempt rolling back or watering down the state’s Freedom of Information Act. In the last year, the Public Access Office handled 5,228 cases, of which 3,278 originated from government agencies seeking permission to keep information out of the public’s hands. The state handled 156 news media appeals for public records in 2010.

Turning to the attorney general’s office is just a symptom of the underlying tension between government officials and journalists. More evidence can be found in a recent Chicago Headline Club survey that said obtaining information from many Chicago and Cook County departments is so difficult that many journalists have given up trying. The research, funded by the McCormick Foundation, asked local reporters about typical response times for information requests. The picture is not pretty.

Those who do succeed in getting a meaty story are in constant need of distribution channels. We are pleased that members of the Investigative News Network have crafted a deal to syndicate content via Reuters. INN is a non-profit consortium of news organizations that is funded in part by the McCormick Foundation.

Meanwhile, Facebook is looking for ways to turn the site into a distribution and possible money-making platform for news. The company’s new journalist program initiative is designed to educate reporters, writers and editors on the benefits of using Facebook as a tool for gathering information and distributing news.

Read the full story

Monday, May 16, 2011

Director's Notes: Update on 2011 Letters of Inquiry

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Journalism Program has finished its initial discussion on the submitted letters of inquiry.
We received more than 150 LOIs by the May 2 deadline.

After the first round of reviews, we have about 60 proposals still in the mix for 2012 grant consideration.

The next step is to determine how each of these potentially fits into our 2011-2013 portfolios. All applicants will be notified about the status of their proposals by May 31.

We are now assessing internally, based on out logic model, to what degree each cluster of proposals helps further our strategic goals. This year, for the first time, we’ll be asking groups to share with the Foundation a logic model for their projected work as part of their full proposal.

Questions going forward for us to address include:
  • What changes are we seeking in journalism content, audience and rights?
  • How are we influencing that change?
  • Are there coalitions, collaborations and partnerships that will us achieve our goals?
  • How can we best leverage our resources?
  • How can we build successful models and reach scalability of our initiatives?
  • What is the balance of quality content, engaged audiences and strong press freedoms that generates maximum impact on news literacy and civic engagement?
We will keep you periodically posted on our progress.

Read the full story

Friday, May 6, 2011

Grantee Spotlight: BGA Shines a Light on Government

Friday, May 06, 2011

Congratulations to the winners of the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Investigative Reporting. The following reporters were honored today at the Better Government Association's Shining a Light on Government awards luncheon.
  • "Reality Check: Where are the jobs?" WTHR-TV Indianapolis, Bob Segall, Cyndee Hebert, Bill Ditton
  • "Tax Buyers, Politicians Benefit from Tax Sales" Belleville News-Democrat, Brian Brueggemann, Mike Fitzgerald
  • "The Shadow Budget" Chicago Reader, Mick Dumke, Ben Joravsky
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Meritorious Award for Commitment to Investigative Journalism

The Better Government Association is one of our Chicago area grantees shining a light on government and holding public officials accountable. BGA executive director Andy Shaw recently received a letter from an elderly South Side couple who were getting pummeled by the city bureaucracy. He turned it over to new BGA staffer James Edwards, who wrote about cleaning up the mess.

Beyond the frequent aggravation of red tape and lack of accountability, there are times when government does it right. New York Times columnist David Brooks notes that commentators and public analysts “spend little time directly observing what government is and isn’t good at.” His April 29 column salutes a federal program called HUDStat, which tracks homelessness among veterans and the results of the various efforts to combat it.

Read the full story

Spotlight On Digital Learning

Friday, May 06, 2011

Last month, we attended the MacArthur Foundation’s event on Reimagining Learning, which featured innovative pilot projects and advancements in digital learning. About 250 educators, members of the nonprofit community and community leaders, including incoming mayor Rahm Emanuel attended the event. We were especially intrigued by the applications of digital media in the classroom. Here are some of the highlights from the event: 

One of the main ideas posed was educators need to teach and prepare students for jobs that don’t even exist yet, using tools that aren’t even invented yet. Digital Youth Network’s success in partnering with Chicago Public Library’s You Media was highlighted as a promising model. This collaboration allows students access to You Media where they can use technology and media to develop skills and share and critique each other’s work in a unique space online community.

Video game design as an effective teaching tool was also highlighted. Quest to Learn, a school for “digital kids,” is a model of this kind of learning. Quest to Learn uses games as rules-based systems, where students have to use critical thinking skills, create new worlds, make complex decisions and receive feedback. A Quest to Learn charter school will open in Chicago this fall.Read more about Chicago’s Quest to Learn school here.

To learn more about digital learning, click here to watch a PBS documentary on new leaders of 21st century learning.

Read the full story