Stony Brook News Literacy Program is Branching Out

I emerged from the final lecture of News Literacy in the spring of 2008 happily armed with a shiny red slogan button, complimentary ice cream sandwich (much appreciated) and an overwhelming sense of relief (three to four written assignments per week had not exactly been my idea of a fun time).

Aside from the broad sense of accomplishment I felt at the thought of finally evacuating the bottom-tier social rung occupied by lowly freshmen, I’ll admit that I had picked up a little something else, as well…yes, with my newfound ability to scrutinize and evaluate the credibility of everything that even resembled hard news, I would eventually rule the world—or, at the very least, boost my ability to pass a news quiz.

To provide you with some insight, here’s a quick rundown of the program courtesy of Dean Howard Schneider:

Somehow, I still remember that last lecture–80 straight minutes of evaluating the reliability of campaign news clips. The country was on the brink of electing Barack Obama to the presidency, and I was beyond sick at that point of political news…or just about any news, for that matter.

New to the journalism program, I’ll admit that I had barely ever read the paper unless it was somehow by accident. Thanks to weekly ‘clicker’ quizzes, by the end of the three-month semester, I was completely burned out.

Looking back on it now, however, I’m pretty amazed at how little I knew not only about the excruciating process behind putting a news piece together into a comprehensive bundle of informative prose, but how difficult it could actually be to make sense of it. It’s not, in fact, all on the journalist to disseminate the information, but on the reader to evaluate the work and interact with it accordingly.

I must say, I only recently discovered that this program originated here at Stony Brook, which is undoubtedly amazing in itself, given that our beloved School of Journalism is practically just out of diapers.

Of course, I guess it had its advantages from the start. The Center for News Literacy didn’t exactly come into this world penniless, after all, but emerged in part from a $1.8 million grant courtesy of the Knight Foundation.

Now, however, I’m really amazed at how quickly the program is spreading.

Dean Schneider, it seems, has really been making the case for this new program in recent years and, I suppose, for good reason.

The fact of the matter is while we’re waiting for our recent graduates to come back with the goods necessary for building up this school’s nascent reputation, we need to have something else in place of that to really put us on the map.

Sadly, we’re too young to be ‘established.’ We need publicity…straightforward proof. What better way to provide that than by pioneering a revolutionary program that other universities may actually want to adopt?

I mean, right now, Stony Brook is the only state school to have a bona fide school of journalism, if you can believe it. In a sense, I guess that already makes us special. But this new News Literacy program only enhances that distinction and sets us apart even from longstanding journalistic institutions that don’t have a legitimate answer to it.

At this point, I’d say that that’s exactly what this program needs. We need to have all eyes on us if we are to attract the people we need to really set the bar for this preschool-age program.

Apparently, Dean Schneider sees the benefit in all of this-during Inauguration weekend, he pitched his case for the program once again during an hour-long lecture in Javits.

Here’s an example of a conference that took place last spring.

The really interesting thing here is that other schools are actually jumping on board. The Stony Brook School of Journalism, therefore, is gradually becoming a model for other schools that plan on launching similar programs within their journalism sector.

According to a recent Times Beacon Journal article, (naturally, I would post the link, but somehow, the story does not seem to be up on the site yet) “Syracuse University is about to become the first school to offer a similar course based upon Schneider’s model, which has the goal of reaching the entire student body.”

This particular fact is more than a little exciting. I mean, Syracuse is one of the titans amongst journalism schools…and now it’s actually seeking counsel from tiny little SBU? Wow. I’m actually pretty proud of that.

According to this Times Beacon article from last spring, Louisiana State University also wants a piece of the Stony Brook News Literacy pie, while “the Ford Foundation has underwritten a two-week course in news literacy for high school teachers this summer at SBU.” Here’s an example of News Literacy course at a high school in Babylon.

Who knows? With a reach this broad, the News Literacy program might just be the catalyst to beef up the School of Journalism’s reputation much more quickly than anyone could have anticipated.

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