The Robert R. McCormick Foundation’s Journalism Program is launching Why News Matters, a grantmaking program designed to enhance news literacy skills and programs in Chicago. We will invest as much as $6 million in the next three years in the Why News Matters initiative.
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 will build 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.
The goal of this Request for Ideas is to significantly expand news literacy efforts throughout Chicago. We will solicit ideas and then fund a portfolio of high-impact projects. Organizations selected for funding will carry out multi-faceted approaches of expanding news literacy efforts throughout the Chicago area. We believe the Why News Matters initiative will yield a better informed and civically engaged citizenry.
With the overwhelming flood of information, it’s harder than ever for consumers to distinguish news from noise. A 2010 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, preliminary research from Stony Brook University shows that students who have taken a news literacy course are more likely to register to vote and increase their exposure to news than students who have not taken the course.
We ask your assistance 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:
We are interested in supporting projects that address:
- Education: Integrate news literacy into public schools, after-school programs and community education settings. May include blending news literacy into Common Core classroom lessons.
- Training: Provide opportunities for Chicagoans to learn and teach others about news literacy. May include curriculum for adults and train-the-trainer workshops.
- Awareness & Engagement: Increase public understanding of news literacy principles. May include marketing campaigns, social media, web portals, apps, games, art programs and public service announcements.
- Research & Evaluation: Evaluate the impact of news literacy on student performance and civic engagement. May include program evaluation, design and implementation of assessment tools and other research on a sector-wide or project-level basis.
Why News Matters will not replace the Journalism Program’s current grantmaking framework of Content, Audience and Rights. Rather, it is intended to better focus the current framework and make it more effective in addressing news literacy needs in Chicago. To better understand the CAR grantmaking framework, review the Journalism Grantmaking Guidelines and our current Logic Model. We anticipate that most Why News Matters projects will fall under the Audience category of funding, while a few may fall within the Content and Rights categories.
Learning and Action Agenda
At its best, news literacy programs help citizens develop critical thinking skills, civic responsibility and respect for First Amendment freedoms. There are many aspects of news literacy we hope to better understand in coming years. Here are some of the questions we have discussed in creating Why News Matters:
- To what degree will civic engagement and knowledge of current events increase through news literacy programs?
- How do news literacy programs impact student success?
- What are the most effective ways to engage middle school, high school and college students in news literacy?
- Research indicates that the principles of news literacy are best learned through interactive, hands-on learning. Do students make strides in news literacy by creating and consuming content that addresses topics of importance to youth?
- Can news literacy content be incorporated into curriculum implementing Common Core standards? What other opportunities are there to apply the values of news literacy in Common Core curriculum?
- What are the most effective ways to engage adults and seniors in news literacy activities?
- Can news literacy be incorporated with existing adult literacy programs? What about existing job training programs?
- Are there strategies for engaging specific ethnic groups?
- What role can youth play in teaching people of all ages the principles of news literacy?
- Is there potential for news literacy programs to collaborate with other literacies – financial, health and civic?
- How does news literacy overlap with Digital Literacy, Information Literacy and Media Literacy?
- Are there effective ways for news organizations to engage their audiences in news literacy?
- What shared activities, web portals, and collective learning might help bring ‘glue’ to the individual projects funded through this initiative?
Please visit our Why News Matters resources page for links to news literacy programs and research.
To apply, register as a user and fill out this brief application form on our online application system. Note: If you are a new user to our online application system, you’ll need to enter your e-mail address and create a password. If you already are registered with us, you can use your existing McCormick Grant Request log in and password. (Current grantees: This is the same log in and password you used to complete your year-end grant reports).
The application form includes:
- Your idea: Give us your elevator pitch. (100 words or less)
- Audience: Who would your initiative target and why? (50 words or less)
- Timeline: Provide a rough overview of the timeframe. (50 words or less)
- Budget: What is the estimated cost of the program? (25 words or less)
- Mission statement: Copy and paste your organization’s mission statement.
- Expertise: Why is your organization suited to carry out the project? (50 words or less)
- Evaluation: How you would evaluate the impact of your project? (50 words or less)
- Additional thoughts: Anything else you’d like to add.(50 words or less)
The deadline for submissions is April 2, 2012. Organizations can apply with more than one idea. If your application is selected, we will contact you by late April to request a more detailed letter of inquiry. By mid-June, selected applicants will be invited to submit full proposals.
Grant winners will be notified in September 2012 and will receive their funding in January 2013.
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.
This initiative is focused on the Chicago area, though we will consider select national programs that have impact on news literacy in Chicago.
The Foundation plans to invest as much as $2 million in 2013 in the Why News Matters initiative, and we anticipate investing another $4 million in the following two years.A few grants will have budgets of more than $50,000 a year, but most will be funded at less than $50,000
In 2013, the majority of projects are likely to be one-year demonstration grants. A select group may be funded for two years or longer. We are in the final stages of developing a news literacy logic model that will shape Why News Matters as a multi-year initiative around tiered outcomes.
If you have questions or comments, please email Aaron Smith. The Journalism Program staff will review your questions and get back to you by phone or e-mail.
For more on the Why News Matters informational sessions and webinars (or anything else for that matter), click here.