Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why News Matters: Frequently Asked Questions

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

General Questions 

1. Why is your application called a Request for Ideas (RFI), rather than a Request for Proposals?
At this time, we are asking for ideas rather than letters of inquiry or full proposals. To apply, you must fill out a brief application form on our application online system, providing a brief summary of your idea as well as information on your organization.

2. What is news literacy? 
News literacy is the ability to use critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports and information sources. It enables citizens to become smarter consumers and creators of fact-based information. It helps them develop informed perspectives and the navigational skills to become effective citizens in a digitally connected society. News literacy programs also emphasize the importance of news and information, the value of reliable sources and appreciation of First Amendment freedoms.
News literacy can overlap with other instructional theories, including Digital Literacy, Information Literacy and Media Literacy. Each occupies and promotes different skills sets at the intersection of digital media and critical thinking. All have a role to play in news literacy.

3. How exactly is news literacy similar to—and different from—the other literacies (digital, information, media, etc.)? 
News literacy is the new kid on the block, but has a great deal of overlap with fields such as Civic Literacy, Digital Literacy, Information Literacy and Media Literacy, among others. Here are basic definitions and links to begin exploring:

Civic Literacy focuses on people’s participation in civic life, emphasizing their knowing how to stay informed, being aware of and exercising their rights, and understanding the implications of civic decisions. Resource:  Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

Digital Literacy refers to people’s ability to locate and effectively analyze information using digital technology. Resource: Digital Literacy report by Common Sense Media.

Information Literacy focuses on people’s ability to locate, evaluate and effectively use information. Resource: American Library Association. 

Media Literacy is the ability access, analyze and create media as well as a framework for understanding the role of media in society. Resource: Media Literacy website for the California-based Center for Media Literacy.

4. How does the Why News Matters initiative fit into the Content, Audience and Rights framework?  
Why News Matters will not replace the Journalism Program’s current grantmaking framework of Content, Audience and Rights. Rather, it is intended to better focus the current framework and make it more effective in addressing News literacy needs in Chicago. Review our Grantmaking Guidelines to better understand the CAR grantmaking framework Most Why News Matters projects will fall under the Audience category of funding, while a few may fit within the Content and Rights categories.

5. Do I have to be a Chicago-based organization to apply?
No. While Chicago is the focus for the Why News Matters initiative, we will consider non-Chicago applicants that can make a strong case for how their proposed idea can impact a Chicago audience. This could mean partnering with a Chicago organization as part of your proposed work.

6. Do I have to be a non-profit to apply? 
No. Ideas can be submitted by 501c3 nonprofit organizations, as well as individuals and businesses partnering with tax-exempt organizations. If you are invited to submit a final proposal, you must select a fiscal agent that is a 501c3.

7. Our organization doesn’t have a background in journalism or news, but we really want to get into news literacy. Can I still apply? 
Yes. We encourage organizations (arts, theater, game design) to apply. We anticipate viable applications from organizations that demonstrate strong working partnerships with organizations that have expertise in journalism training and news literacy.

8. Can we re-apply with the same idea through the May 1 letter of inquiry process if our application is not selected for a Why News Matters grant?
Applying for the Why News Matters does not preclude you from being able to submit a separate grant request on May 1, but please do not submit the same idea twice.

9. What are the criteria that will be used to judge the applications? 
We are looking for creative ideas that address the goals of Why News Matters. As we review the proposals we will be looking at several criteria in evaluating proposals, including:
  • Relevance of proposal to program priority areas
  • Potential project impact
  • Proposal originality
  • Organization track record
  • Ability to build on existing work and knowledge in news literacy
  • Ability to connect proposal to McCormick Foundation priority areas
10. If I have a question about my application or my idea for Why News Matters, whom do I contact? 
Please e-mail your questions and inquiries to Aaron Smith, administrative officer, at The Journalism Program staff will review your question and get back to you by phone or e-mail.

Program staff will also be available to answer your questions at the following informational sessions and online Q&A events:

March 9, 2012, 3 pm CT 
Why News Matters Informational Webinar Featuring Journalism Program Director Clark Bell and Program Officers Mark Hallett and Janet Liao. Call in information: TBD
Click here to register now>

March 16, 2012, 3 pm CT 
Why News Matters Informational Session: Featuring Dean Miller, Director of Stony Brook's Center for News Literacy. Location: 205 N. Michigan Ave. Suite 4300, Chicago, IL 60601.
Click here to register now>

March 27, 2012, 3 pm CT
Why News Matters Informational Session:  Featuring Geanne Rosenberg, Baruch College. Location: 205 N. Michigan Ave. Suite 4300, Chicago, IL 60601.
Click here to register now>

11. When will I hear back about my application? What are the next steps? 
If your application is selected, we will contact you by the end of April to request a more detailed letter of inquiry. If you are not selected, you will be notified by letter or e-mail. By mid-June, a select group will be asked to submit full proposals. 

12. When will I receive funding if my project is selected? 
Grant winners will be notified in September 2012 and will receive their funding in January 2013.

13. Can I request multi-year funding?  What is the range of grant amounts being rewarded? 
We expect to invest about $2 million in 2013 in Why News Matters projects. In addition, we anticipate investing another $4 million in the following two years. A few grants will have budgets of more than $50,000, but most will be funded at less than $50,000 a year. In 2013, the majority of projects are likely to be one-year demonstration grants. A select group may be funded for two years or longer. We are in the final stages of developing a news literacy logic model that will shape Why News Matters as a multi-year initiative around tiered outcomes.

14. Can I submit more than one idea? 
Yes. We’ve kept the application form short and simple, and encourage you to share your viable ideas. Each idea should be submitted as a separate application.

15. How do I apply? 
To apply, fill out this brief application form on our online application system. Note: If you are a new user, you'll need to enter your e-mail address and create a password. If you already are registered with us, you can use your existing McCormick Grant Request log in and password. (Current grantees: This is the same log in and password you used to complete your year-end grant reports).

16. What websites will help us learn about news literacy? 
Please visit our Why News Matters resources page for links to news literacy programs and research.

17. Are there additional roles that McCormick Foundation hopes groups will play to support the sector that are NOT laid out in the Request for Ideas? What are they?
The Journalism Program plans to support initiatives meant to add ”glue” to the work of all of the individual partners in this initiative. This might include evaluation work, convening Why News Matters partners and creating an online hub for information-sharing. We want to find ways to help the sum of our grantees’ work become bigger than the individual parts.

Questions from Current Grantees 
18. My grant expires at the end of the year and I want to apply to renew funding for my current program. Do I have to submit both a Why New Matters application by April 2 and a Letter of Inquiry by May 1? 
If your project is not primarily focused on the scope of Why News Matters, we recommend that you submit a letter of inquiry through our normal grantmaking process by May 1, 2012. If you wish to also quality for a Why News Matters grant, please submit a separate application by April 2.  In some situations, organizations seeking to renew grants may end up developing a proposal that addresses news literacy.

19. I’m a current grantee and our projects already encompass youth media, youth journalism and news literacy. Should I submit a Why News Matters application if I have an idea that is separate from my current program? 
If you wish to also qualify for a Why News Matters grant, please submit a separate application by April 2, 2012, If your project is not primarily focused on the scope of Why News Matters, we recommend that you submit a letter of inquiry through our normal grantmaking process by May 1, 2012.

20. We are a grantee of the Foundation in another area (i.e. Civics, Communities). Can we still apply to the Why News Matters initiative?
Yes, McCormick already partners with select organizations that meet the guidelines in more than one program, so certainly this is possible under the Why News Matters initiative.

Questions from Informational Sessions and Webinars
21. Many of you have asked us to elaborate on our evaluation process and requirements. 
We’re pleased to share our evaluation logic model to give you a better sense of our program goals and framework and how your ideas might align. We plan to develop more detailed evaluation metrics from our work with Why News Matters grantees.

22. How can news literacy be incorporated into an area like work-force training? 
News literacy is intertwined with media, digital and other literacies.
We feel there are synergies with these disciplines in citizenship, workforce development and workforce reentry programs. McCormick, for example, funds digital navigators at the Chicago Public Libraries. Much of this traffic comes from older people looking for jobs.  Another example: Financial literacy teachers better connect with students by illustrating curriculum with relevant current economic events. We want to know your ideas on how news literacy skills align with other learning skills.

23. You say you want to engage the community. What’s your take on the role of journalism in advocacy and community organizing? 
We are exploring this question now more than ever in the past. That said, we are firm believers in pure journalism skills.  We’re certainly looking at  different ways that people learn and engage, but the focus has to be on informing and stimulating citizen action through a news literacy lens.  

24. Do I have to create a separate user name and log-in for every application I submit? 
You may submit multiple applications using the same username and password. Each application you submit will be assigned a unique identification number to help you keep track of your applications. See below:

At any time, you can access and work on your application(s) by logging into your grant application account by logging-in from You can toggle between Submitted Applications and In Progress Applications by clicking on the “Show” drop down menu on the top right hand corner. 

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