News Literacy Project helps students sort fact from fiction in the digital age

By Jeff Festa
February 29th, 2012

The News Literacy Project (NLP) is a national educational program that taps experienced journalists to help middle and high school students “sort fact from fiction in the digital age.”

According to its website, the project teaches students critical-thinking skills that will help them become smarter consumers and creators of information across all types of media. It shows students “how to distinguish verified information from spin, opinion, and misinformation—whether they are using search engines to find websites with information about specific topics, assessing a viral eMail, viewing a video on YouTube, watching television news, or reading a newspaper or a blog post.”

Working with educators, students, and journalists, NLP says it has developed original curriculum materials “based on engaging activities and student projects that build and reflect understanding of the program’s essential questions. The curriculum includes material on a variety of topics … that is presented through hands-on exercises, games, videos, and the journalists’ own compelling stories.”

NLP also is working with the American Library Association (ALA) on a brand-new news literacy campaign. The campaign, called “News Know-how,” is supported by the Open Society Foundations.

The two-year, $722,000 project seeks to teach students information literacy principles to help them develop critical thinking skills and analyze news coverage in all of its formats. As part of the project, high school students—with public libraries as their “newsroom”—will learn how to distinguish facts from opinions, check the source and validity of news and information, and identify propaganda and misinformation.

“In today’s mass media environment, it is critical that students are taught to analyze news coverage,” said Barbara Jones, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Libraries that will kick off the project include the Chicago Public Library; Oak Park, Ill., Public Library; Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore; and several Iowa rural and urban libraries working with the State Library.

About the Author:

Jeff Festa