Thursday, March 24, 2011

Director’s Notes: Quips, Quotes & Commentary on News Literacy Conference

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Beautiful spring weather greeted about 200 journalists, professors, students, high school teachers and news media pundits on the Stony Brook University campus on Long Island, N.Y.

The March 16-18 McCormick Foundation-funded summit was designed to celebrate the impressive growth of the news literacy movement. At the same time, the group confronted the necessity of crafting assessment standards to better measure the impact of the curriculum on student performance and engagement.
A similar conference was held two years earlier to spotlight the need and potential of setting a national agenda for news literacy. Today, various types of curriculum have been introduced into hundreds of university, high school and middle school classrooms.

This momentum is expected to continue. As we see it, students participating in news literacy training will steadily rise from a few thousand to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands within five years. By the end of the decade, it will be millions.

Here are a few highlights of the conference:
  • “News literacy is a work in progress,” according to Howard Schneider, founding dean of the university’s school of journalism.
  • Journalism schools that offer solid news literacy training to non-majors will become part of the campus epicenter, rather than labeled a “professional school,” Schneider said.
  • A well-constructed news literacy course will help students acknowledge and confront their biases as they follow the Judgment-Conclusion-Action path on current events.
  • As journalists and audiences push against bias in the pursuit of transparency, they should ask two key questions: “What do you mean?” and “How do you know it?”
  • There are some who truly believe that “if the news is that important, it will find me.”
  • The Newseum is determined to help provide attainable standards of learning so schools won’t block Web sites important to news literacy education, said Paul Sparrow, senior vice president of the highly impressive Washington D.C. museum.
  • News comes at us faster than a speeding train. Rather than fully believe what is reported first, we should say “here is what we don’t know.”
  • News literacy teachers may face students who are “disinterested, annoyed and bored,” according to Stephanie Craft, a University of Missouri journalism professor. Craft is working on ways to evaluate the impact of news literacy training.
  • Michael Spikes, a Washington, D.C. high school communications teacher, is convinced that news literacy training boosts reading and writing skills.
  • News literate students realize “you go to Wikipedia first, rather than last,” said Dean Miller, director of Stony Brook’s Center for News Literacy.
  • It is imperative to “alter the demand side” of journalism,” said Tom Rosenstiel, founder and director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. “The news literacy movement itself must decide whether it works and how to scale it.”
  • On that front, news literacy must become stickier and more sophisticated. Stony Brook’s Miller said “we need to add rigor to program evaluation.
  • The News Literacy Project’s Alan Miller is looking to “elevate the mission of news literacy nationally through a combination of a vibrant classroom program, high profile partnerships with other civic institutions and creation of a dynamic digital media program.”
For more information, check out our News Literacy Resources section.

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