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Rita Allen Foundation Joins News Co/Lab Supporters to Improve Public Understanding of News and Scientific Evidence

November 7, 2017

The recently launched News Co/Lab at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication today announced new support from the Rita Allen Foundation.

The lab partners with journalists, librarians, educators, technologists and others to help the public find new ways to access, understand, act upon and create accurate, evidence-based news and information.

A $150,000 grant from the Rita Allen Foundation helps launch the News Co/Lab and support projects specifically in science and health news literacy. Activities will include:

  • Adding science and health news literacy practices in a global best-practices study.
  • Developing an innovative method for “atomizing” the essentials of news literacy and applying them to science and health education.
  • Applying newsroom transparency and engagement techniques specifically in the areas of science and health journalism.

“There is a vast amount of misinformation about science and medicine, and the consequences of believing it can be not just harmful but deadly,” said Dan Gillmor, News Co/Lab founder and director. “We believe news literacy concepts can and should be embedded into specific topic areas, and these are vital ones.”

Rita Allen Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Good Christopherson said, “As we build coalitions to strengthen the role of high-quality journalism and scientific evidence in public decision-making, a central focus is ensuring that people from all walks of life are equipped to effectively evaluate the information and claims they encounter. We are eager to follow the News Co/Lab’s collaborative experiments in shaping the future of news literacy.”

The Rita Allen Foundation joins two other funders announced last month, Facebook and the News Integrity Initiative. The lab’s initial project is a collaboration with three McClatchy newsrooms: The Kansas City Star, The Modesto Bee in central valley California and The Telegraph in Macon, Georgia.

Each newsroom will work with their local communities to develop new ways to increase transparency, engagement, mutual understanding and respect.

Over time, the lab plans to work with a variety of partners, from educators and technologists to community groups and newsrooms of different types and sizes. Early collaborators include the News Literacy Project, the Trust Project, the Newseum, Knight Science Journalism at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Poynter Institute, the Trusting News project, the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University and the MIT Center for Civic Media. The News Co/Lab will promote and accelerate the best work already being done by the partners as well as pursue its own program of experimentation.

The Cronkite School itself also will participate in lab experiments, through Cronkite News, the award-winning student-powered news division of Arizona PBS. Eric Newton, lab co-founder and the school’s innovation chief, will work with Gillmor and other lab staff on projects.

"We’re grateful for the Rita Allen Foundation’s support for the News Co/Lab," said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “Journalists and journalism schools need to assume a greater role in helping the public understand its growing place in the news ecosystem.”


About the Rita Allen Foundation

The Rita Allen Foundation invests in transformative ideas in their earliest stages to leverage their growth and promote breakthrough solutions to significant problems. It enables early-career biomedical scholars to do pioneering research, seeds innovative approaches to fostering informed civic engagement, and develops knowledge and networks to build the effectiveness of the philanthropic sector. Throughout its work, the Foundation embraces collaboration, creativity, learning and leadership.

About the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

The Cronkite School at Arizona State University is widely recognized as one of the nation’s premier professional journalism programs. The school’s 1,800 students regularly lead the country in national journalism competitions. They are guided by faculty comprised of award-winning professional journalists and world-class media scholars. Cronkite’s full-immersion professional programs give students