Robert R. McCormick Foundation Funds Community-Based Approaches to News Literacy

[Source: Robert R. McCormick Foundation, October 3, 2012]

“Why News Matters” Grants Encourage Citizen Engagement

Recognizing the need to help educate the next generation of news consumers, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation announced plans for a three-year, $6-million initiative, called “Why News Matters,” to expand innovative approaches to improving news literacy. The initial $1 million of these grants were announced by Foundation CEO David Hiller at the City Club of Chicago. In addition, the Foundation is continuing to provide funding for initiatives supporting youth journalism, quality reporting and protection of press freedoms. The Foundation announced nearly $4 million in total journalism grants.

With today’s explosion of media content, news consumers of all ages are often overwhelmed with information. A June 2012 study of American youth (“Participatory Politics: New Media and Youth Political Action,” by Cathy Cohen and Joseph Kahne) found that 84% of respondents say they are bombarded with information and “would benefit from learning more about how to gauge what news is trustworthy.” Adults often face a similar dilemma. Why News Matters addresses the strong need for practical skills for evaluating this onslaught of information. The goal is to increase the level of informed civic engagement in the Chicago area.

“‘Why News Matters’ grantees will bring an entrepreneurial and collaborative spirit as we expand the reach and impact of news literacy,” said David Hiller, President and CEO, Robert R. McCormick Foundation. “Together, we can foster a healthy, 21st Century democracy grounded in a free press and informed, active citizenry. By harnessing our community’s ideas and commitment, Chicago can become a model city for civic engagement.”

In the initial round of this three-year, $6 million Why News Matters program, the Foundation awarded more than $1 million in grants to 11 organizations to enhance news literacy skills and programs in Chicago. The grants included $200,000 to City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) to expand news and information literacy into various academic disciplines across all seven CCC campuses. Another $100,000 was granted to the Alternative Schools Network for a two-year news literacy initiative across 10 charter high schools that serve students who dropped out and later returned to school. In addition, the Foundation granted $120,000 to DePaul University’s Latino Media and Communications initiative for the expansion of hands-on news literacy programming to students at 15 Latino-dominant Chicago-area high schools.

The Foundation also continues to invest in youth media. The Foundation has awarded a two-year, $375,000 grant to Columbia College Chicago for the Columbia LINKS youth journalism program. LINKS fills the need for a citywide teen news initiative, bringing students together from a variety of high schools and neighborhoods to partner on reporting projects, for one-on-one mentoring and exposure to adult role models.

In the area of quality news content, the Foundation invests in specialized training for journalists covering communities and military/national security issues. For example, the Foundation awarded a two-year, $500,000 grant to the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism to sustain the Medill Watchdog Initiative, which focuses on government accountability in the Chicago area.   

With its focus on press freedoms, the Foundation is supporting efforts to improve government transparency and access to public information. The Foundation granted $200,000 over two years to the Illinois First Amendment Center for its education and community outreach efforts in news literacy and the five freedoms of the First Amendment.  

“Quality content and press freedoms are essential components in building news literacy,” said Clark Bell, the Foundation’s Journalism program director.

The Journalism Program has an annual grantmaking budget of $5.5 million. The program has invested more than $106 million in journalism since its founding in 1993.

The full list of 2012 approved grants includes:

Grants Supporting “Why News Matters” Initiative

1.    Alternative Schools Network, Chicago, IL
$100,000 over two years
For a two-year news literacy initiative in a network of charter high schools

2.    City Colleges of Chicago, Chicago, IL
$200,000 over two years
For support of an intergenerational news and information literacy curriculum

3.    DePaul University, Chicago, IL
$120,000 over two years
For news literacy programming designed for high schools in the Latino community

4.    Erie Neighborhood House, Chicago, IL
$60,000 over two years
To develop an after-school news literacy program for the Latino community

5.    The Futuro Media Group, New York, NY
For a local public forum and programs on news literacy targeting Latino audiences

6.    Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, Chicago, IL
To support experiential, hands-on news literacy workshops for Chicago youth ages 9 - 13

7.    Illinois Humanities Council, Chicago, IL
For neighborhood discussions on current affairs/news literacy

8.    Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Chicago, Chicago, IL
To develop and implement news literacy training in Chicago neighborhoods
9.    Newspaper in Education Foundation (Chicago Tribune’s “Mash”), Chicago, IL
$150,000 over two years
To include news literacy activities in youth journalism programming

10.    Northwestern University – Medill School of Journalism, Evanston, IL
For research on news habits

11.    Project Exploration, Chicago, IL
$70,000 over two years
For after-school program building news literacy into science instruction

TOTAL - $1,015,000

Grants Supporting Youth Journalism

12.    Columbia College, Chicago, IL
$375,000 over two years
For the Columbia LINKS youth journalism program and town halls on news literacy

13.    Community Television Network (CTVN), Chicago, Illinois
$120,000 over two years
For enhancing youth journalism training with news literacy curriculum

14.    Free Spirit Media NFP, Chicago, IL
$225,000 over two years
To expand broadcast journalism programs and youth media field building

15.    Loyola University, Chicago, IL
For the Journalism/News Literacy program at Senn High School

16.    National Museum of Mexican Art (Radio Arte), Chicago, IL
For “Difusion Media” youth journalism programming

17.    Street-Level Youth Media, Chicago, IL
$150,000 over two years
For support of a multimedia journalism program and online news literacy hub
18.    True Star Foundation Inc., Chicago, IL
$150,000 over two years
For youth journalism and news literacy training and marketing campaign

19.    We the People Media, Chicago, IL
$120,000 over two years
For support of a Chicago youth journalism training program

20.    Young Chicago Authors, Chicago, IL
For support of news literacy training and the launch of a new journalism project

TOTAL - $1,300,000

Grants Supporting Press Freedoms

21.    Illinois First Amendment Center (Illinois Press Foundation), Springfield, IL
$200,000 over two years
For a First Amendment educational program, student journalism camps and a community news literacy outreach initiative

22.    Society of Environmental Journalists, Jenkintown, PA
$100,000 over two years
For support of FOIA training for environmental journalists    
TOTAL - $300,000

Grants Supporting Quality Journalism

23.    Aspen Institute, Aspen, CO
For continued support of the Aspen Security Forum

24.    Community Media Workshop, Chicago, IL        
$220,000 over two years
For news literacy workshops, ethnic media training and mini-grants

25.    Community Renewal Society, Chicago, IL
$200,000 over two years
For general support of The Chicago Reporter’s work in investigative news and community engagement

26.    Kansas University Endowment, Lawrence, KS
For military-media education training program

27.    The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, Oakland, CA
For audience research and Richard Prince’s column on diversity in journalism

28.    New America Media (Pacific News Service), San Francisco, CA
$150,000 over two years
For community and ethnic media work nationally

29.    Northwestern University – Medill School of Journalism, Evanston, IL        
$500,000 over two years
For continued support of the Medill Watchdog Initiative

TOTAL - $1,250,000

GRAND TOTAL - $3,865,000