In addition to the more involved units, NLP is beginning to post one-off lessons online. In October, as part of its website’s re-launch, NLP created a “Learn” channel where anyone can watch video lectures for free. There are currently four videos on the site, each of which has been viewed between 100 and 200 times thus far, and their plan is to add one per month, so they have many more in the works. Typical videos run around 10 minutes and are narrated by experienced journalists. In the most-watched video, Paul Saltzman, assistant managing editor for projects at the Chicago Sun-Times, gives an overview to how a reader should view an article’s sourcing, with seven key points. The first is the number of sources. A story with only one source, he notes, “might be fine if it’s a story about the weather tomorrow, and your source is a weather forecaster. But in other cases, it can be a sign that a story was under-reported. An investigative story that relies on a single source, for instance, could be something to be wary of.” NLP also introduced the “Teachable Moments” blog, in which journalists such as former New York Times public editor Byron Calame illustrate news literacy concepts through events in the news, like an erroneous story.
Previously, all of NLP’s lessons could only be shared with students enrolled in a class that offered them. What the Learn channel and Teachable Moments blog could do—if they build up their content and viewership substantially—is open news literacy concepts to anyone. An American or an Australian, a 30 year old as well as teenager, could learn from a veteran journalist. NLP’s view, after all, is not that teenagers with interested teachers are the only ones who need to learn how to skeptically process new media. Everyone can benefit from using the critical approaches NLP teaches, even other journalists.
Teachers and administrators who have worked with NLP are enthusiastic about the potential for digital lessons to expand NLP’s capacity. This past fall, more students received NLP lessons on the computer than from a classroom visit. Moe says he expects more Chicago schools to request the NLP lessons.
“Teachers have nothing but praise for it,” says Moe. “As other teachers hear about it they’ll want to get involved as well.”
Funding for this coverage is provided by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.