McCormick Foundation Gives $330,000 to Stony Brook University to Accelerate National Expansion of News Literacy Program
STONY BROOK, NY – September 29 , 2011 – Stony Brook University School of Journalism today announced that the Robert R. McCormick Foundation is providing a $330,000 grant to the Center for News Literacy to fund the delivery of training and materials demanded by the rapid spread of News Literacy courses.
“This is a huge boost for us,” said Howard Schneider, Dean of the Stony Brook School of Journalism. “This grant will enable us to share the curriculum materials we are developing here at Stony Brook with a rapidly growing number of universities and high schools linked by a common mission: to teach the next generation of students how separate legitimate news accounts from misinformation, propaganda, spin, and uninformed assertion.”
“It’s never been more important,” said Schneider who is the creator of the standard News Literacy curriculum and teaches one of the eight lectures offered in the fall semester.
The projects being funded were showcased during the School of Journalism’s 2011 national News Literacy Conference held at Stony Brook in March, attended by the head of McCormick’s journalism program and David Hiller, Chief Executive Officer of the McCormick Foundation.
“We are pleased to continue our support of Stony Brook’s cutting edge work in news literacy,” said Clark Bell, the McCormick Foundation’s Journalism Program Director. “The Center for News Literacy is the ‘go to’ source for training, resources and innovation in the field.”
At the Stony Brook conference, News Literacy educators from across the country chose resources they need to accelerate the spread of News Literacy courses. The McCormick Foundation, which made News Literacy a central focus of its journalism program several years ago, then challenged Stony Brook’s Center for News Literacy to turn those ideas into a grant proposal to support several of those initiatives. The proposal was approved by McCormick’s board of directors and will enable Stony Brook to facilitate the following initiatives:
• Launch of a second summer training program for high school News Literacy teachers, in Chicago;
• Redesign and re-launch of a richer Digital Resource Center stocked with free materials for News Literacy teachers;
• Completion of development work underway on the nation’s first online for-credit training course for News Literacy teachers;
• Two rounds of easy-to-apply-for News Literacy “Innovation Grants” for programmers and classroom teachers;
• Development, testing and freeware-style sharing of an assessment tool high schools will use to measure the outcomes of News Literacy courses.
In addition, Stony Brook will use its national profile to drive traffic to News Literacy teaching tools that are being built at Florida Gulf Coast University, at News Trust in Mill Valley, CA and in other partner organizations.
Some 21 colleges and universities across the country have adopted all or part of the Stony Brook Model, a course aimed at teaching students how best to find reliable information for their lives as citizens. During the same time period, more than 40 high schools have added the Stony Brook Model as a stand-alone course or significant unit within an existing course. This fall, Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Council approved a proposal to offer News Literacy as a for-college-credit “ACE” course. Northport and East Oyster Bay High School on Long Island launched those courses this week.
“We’ve taken an open-source approach, sharing every element of Stony Brook Model, from syllabus to Blackboard™ documents at no cost,” said Dean Miller, Director of the Center for News Literacy. “The rapid spread of the course demonstrates the effectiveness of that approach and now the McCormick Foundation is giving us tools to keep up with the growing demand. They share our aspiration: News Literacy courses in all 50 states by 2017 and a slew of new digital tools that make it possible to teach one million students these essential skills for citizenship in the information age.”
About News Literacy
The Center for News Literacy was established in 2007 at Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism with the mission to educate current and future news consumers. The Center serves as a resource center for universities and high schools across the U.S. The Center also develops programs, designs conferences, seminars, lectures, and workshops that bring together journalists and academics to explore issues related to the reliability of news. With funding from the Ford, Knight, Atlantic and McCormick Foundations, the Center for News Literacy has built an undergraduate course that has been taught to students at Stony Brook and is now being taught at 21 universities around the country.
Preliminary research, based on an independent survey of more than 400 Stony Brook undergraduates, shows News Literacy students are more likely than their peers to register to vote and to get involved in democratic organizations, said Miller. “They demonstrated a dramatic improvement in their ability to correctly assess flawed video news reports and they keep up-to-date on current events more than do their peers in the control group,” Miller said. The Center is midway through a follow-up study and will share the methodology with other News Literacy campuses to test that finding.
The Stony Brook Model aims to teach students to recognize the difference between independent, verified, accountable journalism and other, compromised sources of civic information, said Schneider, who conceived and built the course at Stony Brook starting in 2005.
In the standard syllabus, News Literacy students are encouraged to bring current events into every class and professors do the same. Attention is devoted to thinking about how the digital revolution and the structural changes in the news media can affect news consumers. Students are challenged to shoulder their new responsibilities as publishers as well as consumers. A hallmark of the course are exercises and readings that help students distinguish between news media bias and audience bias, Miller said.
“Several universities have adopted our approach, which is to teach this as a general education course and not a journalism course,” he said. “We teach more than a thousand students every fall, typically a quarter to a third of the incoming freshman class, and we hope News Literacy skills become one of the defining characteristics of a Stony Brook graduate.”
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 www.McCormickFoundation.org.