$50,000 Grant Funds School of Journalism News Literacy Survey
By Nathan Hurst
MU News Bureau
Columbia, Mo. (Nov. 9, 2011) — A crucial role of journalism is educating the public about important events and issues. However, that function assumes an audience who thinks critically about what they consume in the media. This critical thinking skill is often referred to as “news literacy.” Evaluating the level of an individual’s news literacy has long been a challenging task for educators and media researchers.
Now, scholars at the University of Missouri are developing a way to measure news literacy among a key population demographic: teenagers. Stephanie Craft, an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism and lead researcher on the project, says understanding news literacy is especially important because new technology complicates the issue.
“With all the new technology and the Internet, it is more difficult for people to identify reliable news sources and differentiate them from unreliable sources,” Craft said. “A lot more confusion exists about where news comes from. The information landscape is a confusing place these days, so the more we can do to figure out what people understand about the news and how they identify news sources, the better we can understand how news affects people’s decisions.”
For her research, Craft will work with focus groups made up of Chicago high school students. The researchers will use the focus groups to develop a survey that can accurately measure participants’ news literacy. Craft believes this measuring tool will be an important step towards helping develop citizens who can adequately decipher media messages and keep up with credible information about their communities.
“News literacy is seen as an important component of democracy,” Craft said. “It is not just that I follow the news, but that I know enough about how the news was produced so that I can make good decisions through how I vote or what I buy.”
This research is funded by a $50,000 grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. The smaller grant is part of nearly $5 million in new grants over the next two years to 22 organizations committed to strengthening quality journalism, promoting news literacy and protecting press freedoms.
The Robert R. McCormick Foundation is committed to fostering communities of educated, informed and engaged citizens. Through philanthropic programs, Cantigny Park and museums, the Foundation helps develop citizen leaders and works to make life better in our communities. The Foundation was established as a charitable trust in 1955, upon the death of Colonel Robert R. McCormick, the longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The Robert R. McCormick Foundation is one of the nation’s largest foundations, with more than $1 billion in assets. For more information, please visit www.McCormickFoundation.org.