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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

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News literacy resources on the way

The Center for News Literacy is one step closer to its goal of creating educated news consumers in all 50 states by 2017.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded a $285,000 grant to the School of Journalism’s Center for News Literacy to continue spreading its message across the country.

“We are going to use the money to build a national digital teacher resource center where teachers from all across the country can come to get material that they can use to launch news literacy courses,” said Howard Schneider, the dean of the School of Journalism.

News literacy, according to the School of Journalism website, is “the ability to use critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports and news sources.” The center was established in 2007 and is the only one of its kind in the United States.

The resource center will provide materials for high school teachers and college professors who teach a modified version of Stony Brook University’s news literacy curriculum. Schneider intends on using the grant money to take the Center for News Literacy to “the next level” in a way that would not be possible otherwise.

Schneider said that if teachers are looking for materials to use regarding course concepts such as the First Amendment or separating news from propaganda, they need only use the new digital database. The web-based system will also allow teachers to discuss effective ways to teach their own adapted curriculums.

Currently, the Center for News Literacy sends out materials to teachers through Yousendit.com, and teachers need to adapt the curriculums to their English, history and journalism classes. The new web-based system will tailor more toward their needs with fresh and current ideas.

The Center for News Literacy also plans to develop byte-size video tutorials for students to use on their own outside of class to sharpen their skills and study for tests at their own pace.

Schneider and Shirley Strum Kenny, former president of SBU met with Robert L. Galucci, the president of the MacArthur Foundation and an SBU alumnus, over a year ago to discuss the news literacy program at the university. Galucci encouraged Schneider to apply for a MacArthur grant.

“They thought that it was important that they support news literacy,” Schneider said. “They in particular are interested in trying to foster civic society and civic participation and democracy and I think they thought that news literacy was one way that that could be accomplished.”

Last year, the McCormick Foundation gave the Center for News Literacy a grant for $330,000. Part of the money was used to start building the online digital database for teachers. The grant was also used to create an online teacher training course.

The McCormick grant also helped fund a new summer institute for high school teachers in Chicago. There is currently an institute on Long Island where teachers gather to develop lesson plans and syllabi to take back to their own school districts.

At the moment, the Center for News Literacy has a $1.75 million grant from the Knight Foundation to support the news literacy classes at SBU. The grant will continue to fund the SBU program until it teaches its 10,000th student.

Thirty-one universities are currently teaching news literacy classes based on SBU’s model, according to Liz Farley, the staff assistant for the Center for News Literacy. News literacy classes are taught in about 25 states, including Hawaii and overseas schools in New Zealand, Australia and Puerto Rico. The Center for News Literacy aims to have news literacy courses in all 50 states by 2017.

Dean Miller, director of the Center for News Literacy and a journalism professor, has also started working with the Bhutan Center for Media and Democracy to incorporate news literacy classes throughout the new country.

“It’s all part of the same big program which is to see if we can get this kind of training embedded into the education of the next generation of students,” Schneider said.

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