In today’s digital news era, middle- and high-school youth are browsing smartphones, tablets, laptops and TV’s for hours a day. Many of them do not have the skills to think critically and question if what they are watching and reading is genuine journalism from an objective news source.
This is not a benign issue. Back in 2008, it was becoming clear to Alan Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, that the youth he was meeting and speaking to lacked the ability to discern what was objective news and what was generated from biased sources with an agenda. As a reporter for 21 years at the Los Angeles Times, Miller was deeply concerned. His response led to the founding of the News Literacy Project (NLP) to educate teachers with sound tools and sophisticated curriculum in schools. Miller’s goal was to help teach students to become active consumers of news so they would become active participants in a democracy.
Fast forward to 2019. With a level of unprecedented digital media information and misinformation, “fake news,” and global insecurity as to who is originating stories, NLP is among the most respected and established resource for educators, youth, and families who are committed to discerning truth from fiction and to raising youth who are prepared to step up in their role as leaders in shaping our democracy.
“The News Literacy Project empowers educators to teach middle and high school students the skills they need to become smart, active consumers of news and other information and engaged, informed participants in civic life.”
NLP programs available in every classroom and for every educator
Checkology® virtual classroom is NLP’s first digitally delivered curriculum, a web-based platform developed for students in grades 6 to 12 to educate them to identify misinformation. Checkology has become a huge success, and now reaches tens of thousands of schools nationally. NLP also offers NewsLit Camps for educators to connect students with journalists; professional development programs to help teachers teach news literacy; a weekly newsletter sharing teachable moments in news literacy called The Sift (sign up here), and other resources.
Davidoff Strategy applied paradigm shifts to help NLP grow
When NLP engaged Davidoff Strategy in 2016 for its second Mission-Driven Strategic Plan with Davidoff, NLP’s success to-date had been predicated on the strong influence of its founder Miller. As we observe with many founder-driven cultures, a time comes in the organization’s maturation where the founder-driven model, especially for a dynamic, visionary leader as Miller is, may no longer allow for maximum growth and development of an organization.
To help Miller, NLP staff and board see the potential of a paradigm shift from founder-led to organization-led, Davidoff led extensive research as part of its discovery phase. Through interviews with internal and external stakeholders, Davidoff identified key paradigm shifts for the national nonprofit that opened up new possibilities for the organization.
Naming paradigm shifts to orient towards reenergized NLP founder Alan Miller, his power board and his dedicated team. All NLP stakeholders agreed that Miller’s best use moving forward was as a news literacy champion and national thought leader, NLP spokesperson, and chief influencer with funders. Stakeholders were also in agreement that the organization would benefit from a strong administrator. That was manifest most clearly in the bringing on of a capable COO with prior experience transitioning nonprofits from founder-driven to organization-driven.
These and other related changes yielded tangible benefits for NLP: the organization doubled its staff size over the following year; it was able to expand into more schools and register more educators. Longtime essential team members benefited from having new teammates who brought new energy, insight, and drive to the organization. In the first year of the transition, NLP won its largest annual funding ever, including the most sizable grant in its 12-year history.
NLP serves as a true exemplar of a Mission-Driven organization, defined by its willingness to self-examine and take needed, in some ways “uncomfortable” steps to evolve and develop. Indeed, throughout these paradigm shifts, NLP never wavered from its original mission of helping youth identify authentic journalism in the Digital Era—with the strong personal touch of the founder throughout, and emphasis on working both harder and smarter to drive needed change.
To learn more and to get involved, visit NLP’s site here.