The News Literacy Project has been helping middle school and high school students in New York City, Chicago and Bethesda, Md., sort fact from fiction in the news for the past three years. Last week, the project spread its roots out to the District with a kickoff event at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School.
The event -- attended by about 50 eighth-grade students and 40 guests -- featured Gwen Ifill of PBS, who urged students to question what that they see, hear and read.
"How do you know that?" she told students to ask of a news source. "What do you base that on?"
Also addressing the crowd were NLP founder and president Alan C. Miller; Greg Farmer, vice president for government affairs at Qualcomm Inc., a lead sponsor of NLP's expansion to the District; Jennifer Niles, E.L. Haynes’ founder and head of school; and Federal Communications Commission member Michael J. Copps.
For Copps, the News Literacy Project at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School is a big deal.
"I think it’s a very big deal,” Copps said.
“We need to be a news-literate people," Copps added. "Democracy’s premise is a well-informed citizenry. “We can’t govern ourselves without good news and information. ... We need to be able differentiate fact from opinion, and we need to be able to distinguish trustworthy information from untrustworthy.”
NLP President Alan Miller -- a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who left the Los Angeles Times after 21 years to launch the nonprofit -- says that with the addition of E.L. Haynes, the project will reach about 2,000 students this academic year.
The NLP has been working with E.L. Haynes teacher Eliza Ford to introduce the project’s original curriculum to two eighth-grade classes.
The National Literacy Project curriculum brings current and retired journalists into classrooms to discuss the best ways to produce and consume quality, credible journalism, distinct from infotainment, spin and opinion.
Program journalist fellows and teachers are currently devising units focusing on the importance of news to young people, the role of the First Amendment and a free media in a democracy and the best ways to discern reliable information, according to the NLP's website.
On Oct. 19, the organization will hold its second annual Fall Forum focusing on politics, public policy and the press at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda. CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin will moderate the event, which will feature columnists David Brooks of the New York Times and E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post.
Tickets to “Demosclerosis: The Challenge of Moving America Forward in a Hyper-Partisan Age” are available to the general public. Click here for more information.