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Cronkite’s News Co/Lab Using Facebook Grant to Boost Media Literacy Ahead of 2020 Elections

January 22, 2020
Co/Lab

News Co/Lab managing director Kristy Roschke works with Cronkite student Caroline Veltman.

Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication today announced it has received a grant from Facebook to help improve digital media literacy among adults ahead of the 2020 elections.

The award is part of Facebook’s $2 million initiative aimed at supporting projects that empower people to identify and seek out credible information to read and share.

“We can all agree that we need to foster and support better information sources in this age of overwhelming supply, too much of which is misinformation,” said Dan Gillmor, co-founder of the News Co/Lab. “We also need to get better ourselves at sorting out what we can trust, and understanding our roles as part of a digital ecosystem in which we’re sharers and creators as well as consumers. Facebook's support for the project helps us do this at scale.”

The funding will support work already being conducted by the Cronkite School’s News Co/Lab, founded in 2017 and supported, in part, with seed funding from the Facebook Journalism Project to help the public better understand and engage with the news.

“These are lifelong skills people need, but it is especially important as we head toward the divisive November 2020 election,” said Kristy Roschke, managing director of the News Co/Lab. “The civic health of our country depends on an informed public, which will be making important decisions about our future in the coming months and years. These types of initiatives can make a real impact.”

For this project, the News Co/Lab will create a series of educational videos in collaboration with Arizona PBS, which is owned and operated by the Cronkite School. The videos will help inform viewers about the evolving media landscape in an effort to boost media literacy, especially for young adults and seniors. The initiative also will include:

• A series of media literacy outreach events across the U.S. in partnership with local community organizations. The events will be designed to teach techniques for spotting misinformation and finding credible sources.
• Creation of a Massive Online Open Course, or MOOC, on digital media literacy through the Cronkite School, which will include tips for spotting misinformation, finding trustworthy sources and best practices for sharing and commenting on news and information, among other topics.
• Digital and social media content.

“As an institution that thrives on innovative practices, we are in perpetual pursuit of solutions that better our industry and, in turn, society,” Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan said. “The evolving landscape of digital journalism demands a new vigilance and a greater level of scrutiny. Our News Co/Lab is positioned at the leading edge of literacy and responsible media consumption.”

Facebook executive Katie Harbath said the platform embraces a similar sentiment with regard to misinformation.

"Helping to stop the spread of misinformation is an important part of our work to help protect elections but we know we can’t do it alone. That’s why we’re partnering with organizations and experts in media literacy like the News Co/Lab out of Arizona State University to launch media literacy resources that will help empower people from senior citizens to first-time voters on how to trust the information they see,” said Harbath, Facebook’s Public Policy Director, Global Elections.

The new media literacy project launches just months after the News Co/Lab received a gift from Craig Newmark Philanthropies to support a project that will combat misinformation by improving the reach and effectiveness of media-issued corrections.

Through that initiative, the News Co/Lab is partnering with researchers, technologists and journalists across three newsrooms owned by the McClatchy media company. The goal is to design and deploy a web-based tool that efficiently reaches consumers on social media platforms with corrected versions of stories they may have already shared.