The Robert R. McCormick Foundation’s Journalism Program is deep into the first stage of launching Why News Matters, a grantmaking program designed to enhance news literacy skills and programs in Chicago. We expect to invest as much as $6 million in the Why News Matters initiative during the 2013-2015 period.
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.
The Why News Matters initiative builds on the strong news literacy youth and teacher training programs that have been the core of the McCormick Foundation’s journalism funding since 2009. Since then, we’ve learned more about young people and how they access news and information. But we also have much to learn. In addition to our youth work, we hope to expand the initiative to engage broader Chicago-area audiences.
News Literacy programs provide:
- A frame of reference to distinguish fact from fiction, opinion or propaganda
- An understanding of the First Amendment, the role of a free, independent media and the importance of journalistic values
- A curiosity to seek information and better understand communities, national and international affairs
- Help in navigating the myriad sources of digital information in a more skeptical and informed manner
- A foundation for exercising civility, respect and car ein the exchange of information
With the overwhelming flood of information, it’s harder than ever for consumers to distinguish news from noise. A Pew Research Center survey found that 70 percent of respondents feel overwhelmed by the amount of news and information from different sources, and 72 percent think most sources of news are biased.
A healthy 21st Century democracy relies on informed citizens with the ability to access and analyze information. For example, research from Stony Brook University suggests that students who have taken a news literacy course are more likely to register to vote, volunteer and consciously increase their exposure to news than students who have not taken the course.
We want to help Chicagoans understand Why News Matters
. Media organizations, high schools, universities, two-year colleges, community organizations, libraries and others all have a role to play. To learn more, view this brief video: