Journalism: Frequently Asked Questions

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 skill sets at the intersection of digital media and critical thinking. All have a role to play in news literacy.


How exactly is news literacy similar to, and different from, the other literacies (digital, information, media, etc.)?

News Literacy is a relatively new discipline, but has a great deal of overlap with fields such as Civic Literacy, Information literacy and Media Literacy, among others. Here are the 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 to 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.

Do I have to be a Chicago-based organization to apply?
No. While we are increasingly investing in Chicago- and Illinois-related investments, 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.

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.

What are the criteria that will be used to judge the applications?
We look at several criteria in evaluating proposals, including:

  • Relevance of proposal to program priority areas
  • Potential project impact
  • Organization track record
  • Ability to build on existing work and knowledge in news literacy
  • Ability to connect proposal to McCormick Foundation priority areas
If I have a question about my application or my idea for Why News Matters, whom do I contact?
Please email your questions and inquiries to Aaron Smith, Administrative Officer at ASmith@McCormickFoundation.org. The Journalism program staff will review your question and get back to you by phone or email.

If I have a question about my application or my idea for Why News Matters, whom do I contact?
Please email your questions and inquiries to Aaron Smith, Administrative Officer at ASmith@McCormickFoundation.org. The Journalism program staff will review your question and get back to you by phone or email.

If I have a question about my application or my idea for Why News Matters, whom do I contact?
Please email your questions and inquiries to Aaron Smith, Administrative Officer at ASmith@McCormickFoundation.org. The Journalism program staff will review your question and get back to you by phone or email.

When will I hear back about my application for a proposal of more than $50,000? What are the next steps?
If your application is selected, we will contact you by mid-June to submit a full proposal. If you are not selected, you will be notified by letter or email.

When will I receive funding if my project is selected?
Grant winners will be notified in September 2014 and will receive their funding in January 2015.

Can I request multi-year funding? What is the range of grant amounts being rewarded?
Yes, but most grants will be for one-year funding. A grant award can be as high as $200,000, but most grants will be in the $20,000-$50,000 range.

Can I submit more than one idea?
Yes. We've kept the Letter of Inquiry application form short and simple, and encourage you to share your viable ideas. Also, please feel free to submit all ideas in one LOI to avoid multiple LOI submissions by your organization.

How do I apply?
The entire application process is online. To apply, take a look at our Letter of Inquiry page. Note: if you are a new user, you'll need to enter your email address and create a password. If you already registered with us, you can use your existing McCormick Grant Request login and password. (Current grantees: This is the same login and password you used to complete your year-end grant reports).


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.


What is the timeline for vetting a grant request under $50,000?
We generally vet requests under $50,000 throughout the year, typically in March, July and November. Requests are usually reviewed and approved/declined within a three-month period.

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