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Alan Miller says National News Literacy Week is about solving the misinformation 'pandemic'

Posted January 26, 2020 6:19 p.m. EST

— The News Literacy Project is breaking out of the classroom to launch a public awareness campaign, and project founder and CEO Alan Miller says it's all about the misinformation "pandemic."

After embedding "virtually" in more than 20,000 educators' classrooms and reaching 140,000 students with journalism-driven curricula, the NLP will launch National News Literacy Week on Monday, January 27. The initiative, lasting through Friday, is aimed at informing the general public about how to parse out real news from fake news; quality journalism from misinformation.

"Misinformation is a threat to our civic life," Miller warns while on the Reliable Sources podcast with Brian Stelter. "It threatens to undermine our civil discourse and the health of the country's democracy."

Miller believes "it's absolutely essential that we tackle it through education, among other means."

The NLP is partnering with about 40 E.W. Scripps local TV stations, where students will work alongside Scripps journalists to produce pieces "about issues of concern in those communities," sharing them with their local and national outlets.

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, AP, and other national news outlets have donated ad space to help publicize the initiative as well.

"We all bear responsibility here," Miller said. "I would like to see a new kind of ethos of personal responsibility around ... how we share and consume news and information, so that people begin to become part of the information solution, instead of being part of the misinformation problem."

"In this age, everybody is their own editor. Everybody can be their own publisher. We want them to play those roles in ways that are credible and responsible and empower their voices," Miller said.

Since its founding in 2008, the NLP has adapted to tackle the new and different types of misinformation students may encounter, whether digital disinformation, "deep fakes" and "cheap fakes," or conspiracy theories.

Miller believes that while the threat of misinformation has grown, there is also "much greater awareness of the importance of learning how to navigate this fraught landscape."

Miller remarks that it felt like his organization "went from being a voice in the wilderness to an answer to a prayer," given the "growing recognition of the threat of misinformation that this pandemic poses."

Notably, Miller differentiates media literacy from news literacy, the field he helped to found. "It is a tributary of media literacy," which he says is broader and generally focuses more heavily on popular culture.

The News Literacy Project is focused on the "standards of quality journalism," and helping the next generation — and now, the general public — to "think like journalists."

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