Perhaps the greatest news to come out of last week’s “News Literacy: Setting a National Agenda” conference at the State University of New York at Stony Brook was this: The University’s Center for News Literacy is working on a proposal aimed at hiring 50 unemployed journalists and training them to teach in colleges throughout the country. The goal is to have government and foundation grant money pay for the salaries and the training of these journalists.
When Howard “Howie” Schneider, dean of the University’s journalism school, asked if any of the nearly 100 educators, administrators and journalists attending the conference on Long Island Friday would like to have one of these journalists for their schools, hands quickly shot into the air. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded SUNY Stony Brook a grant to help find full funding for the project. The hope is that some of the education money the Obama administration has targeted at education might be used for this project, along with foundation money that SUNY Stony Brook hopes to secure.
It is a fabulous idea that takes a step toward solving two major problems in journalism: the unemployment of experienced, excellent journalists and the inability of many news consumers to differentiate between quality journalism and propaganda, public relations and/or shoddy journalism. The goal of this conference was to discuss ways to integrate classes on being a savvy news consumer into high school and college/university curriculums. I can think of no better way to get students interested than to have “guest teachers” who worked in journalism talk about the ins and outs of understanding the news.
Here’s hoping SUNY Stony Brook can pull this off. My hat’s off to the teachers and administrators at Stony Brook for their innovation and dilligence.
Here are a few highlights from today’s News Literacy: Setting a National Agenda conference at SUNY Stony Brook:
- News Literacy: An overview of the News Literacy class at Stony Brook demonstrated ways teachers can show students how to analyze news coverage and judge reliable, verifiable information.
- Ted Koppel and the News Media Panel: This was the highlight of the day. Alexandra Wallace, senior vice president of NBC News, said journalists need to be entertaining and engaging, noting the news doesn’t have to be boring. Koppel, former host of Nightline and longtime journalist, responded that entertainment was not the job of the journalist. “We have to inform,” he said. Some things are dull, he said, but we need to know them. Surprisingly, this drew only a few claps from the audience. Koppel also talked about his concerns about journalism. “I don’t think the democraticization of news gathering is in and of itself a good thing,” he said, noting that readers can’t judge biases and where people are coming from with blogs. With the legacy media (print, broadcast), “There are people who made sure standards are met,” he said. If these standards are not met, people will dump that media outlet, he said.
- Money, Money, Money: Journalism job cuts and their impact on news content came up several times. Case in point: One of the audience members asked about the lack of international coverage in broadcast news. “It’s not that we don’t want to,” Wallace said. “We can’t afford to.”
- Arthur Sulzberger Jr., New York Times publisher: He spoke at day’s end about the current state of The Times. He said The Times is exploring paid content options, has seen print subscriptions grow the past two years (despite the perception of the death of print) and sees no end to print publication of The Times.
- Quote of the day:
- “Cable news seems to be in a desperate rush with the obvious.”–Ted Koppel
What is reputed to be the first-ever conference on how to teach high school and college students about news literacy is starting Wednesday at Stony Brook University on Long Island.
“News Literacy: Setting a National Agenda” will be attended by journalists including veteran reporter Ted Koppel and New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., journalism school deans, department chairs and professors from some 36 schools around the country, including my own.
Our task is not a simple one: How do we teach students to not only realize why the news is important their lives but to judge good journalism from spin?
I’m looking forward to the information and the ideas. I will blog and tweet from the conference. I also welcome you to leave your comments here or tweet me @marducey with any comments/suggestions you might have.
The event is sponsored by the Ford Foundation in conjunction with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and McCormick Foundation.