Choose News over Noise: McCormick’s Why News Matters wants your ideas by May 8

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If ever there’s been a poster child for why news matters —and unfortunately why so often it doesn’t — it is the series of reporting events that began last week with the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and continue as I write.

In the rush to be first at each phase of the story,  we’ve seen all kinds of false and sloppy information polluting the already overcrowded news and information streams on Twitter, in newsprint and elsewhere. You can read  Gwen Ifill’s take on it:  When getting it first trumps getting it right as well as a Tweet loaded piece  by writer  for The Awl, where she called out several social journalism colleagues: Is your social media editor destroying your news organization? 

Farhad Manjoo of Slate weighed in with this sage advice in Breaking News is Broken:

When you first hear about a big story in progress, run to your television. Make sure it’s securely turned off.

Next, pull out your phone, delete your Twitter app, shut off your email, and perhaps cancel your service plan. Unplug your PC.

Now go outside and take a walk for an hour or two.

That sounds about right. That’s how bad it was.

If breaking news is broken, how do we fix it?

Journalists need to “have a filter between their ears and mouths — or eyes and keyboard,” as a colleague said on a private message board today. But the fact is all of us — not just journalists — must develop filters so we can cull the news from the noise and better understand events and issues.  To the degree that we’ve improved our ability to vet the quality of information that is presented to us, we’ll add value to the story when we make a contribution on the comments page, the Twitter feed or anywhere else on the social Web.

That’s one reason why the McCormick Foundation’s Why News Matters grant-making program is so badly needed.

How do we learn to choose news over noise?

Why News Matters seeks to heighten news literacy skills in the Chicago area and beyond.  The foundation will be investing as much as $6 million in promising innovative ideas that could make a difference in our ability to think critically about the information we are swimming in as well as distributing.

What’s news literacy?

It’s the set of critical thinking skills that enable citizens to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports and information sources.

McCormick says news literacy programs provide:

  • A frame of reference to distinguish fact from fiction, opinion or propaganda

  • An understanding of the First Amendement, the role of a free, independent media and the importance of journalistic values

  • A curiosity to seek information and better understand communities, national and international affairs

  • Help in navigating the myriad sources of digital information in a more skeptical and informed manner

  • A foundation for exercising civility, respect and car ein the exchange of information

Here’s some news literacy initiatives that McCormick has been funded to date.

Do you have an idea that could fit in? If so, get with your partners soon and write a Letter of Inquiry. Read McCormick’s FAQ. Do it soon.

Letters are due to McCormick by May 8.

 

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Hilarious skit by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert for the Chicago Gridiron Show

where the mind goes
where the mind goes (Photo credit: sally garden)

Sponsored by the Chicago Headline Club, the Gridiron Show skewered local politics and media from 1987 to 1997.  A labor of love by a kooky bunch of journalists, pr peeps and politicians, it was also a benefit for student scholarships. This bit between Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert is laughing out loud funny. Writing is attributed to  Adam Ritt, with tweaks by the critics themselves. The video is out of synch but listen to the audience response.

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Nonprofits, Causes: Position your digital newsroom

Thanks for the great conversation about digital storytelling earlier at #ChiCounts. Here’s the Storify. In a  world of fewer media gatekeepers, good information from nonprofits and causes is in demand. You now have all the tools  to tell  your stories well to your very specific audience and to amplify your reach.  But what stories should you tell? It’s all about figuring out where you fit in your news ecosystem – whether its geographical or knowledge based — and creating a system for storytelling

Sally Duros is a social journalist and digital storyteller. Connect with her on  and twitter at saduros.

Continue reading Nonprofits, Causes: Position your digital newsroom