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ASNE's community news literacy projects end 2015 with huge success

 
In 2015, ASNE launched the National Community and News Literacy Roundtables Project and the Tennessee Tough Issues Forums. The national and Tennessee projects had big impacts on a number of communities. These recaps of a number of the programs highlight the importance of encouraging and supporting community engagement. ASNE is proud of this success and looks forward to continuing to work with communities across the country and our dedicated partners who support our efforts.

In 2015, ASNE launched the National Community and News Literacy Roundtables Project and the Tennessee Tough Issues Forums. The national and Tennessee projects had big impacts on a number of communities. These recaps of a number of the programs highlight the importance of encouraging and supporting community engagement. ASNE is proud of this success and looks forward to continuing to work with communities across the country and our dedicated partners who support our efforts.

Clair Lorell is the director of the roundtables project, which was launched in partnership with the American Press Institute and The News Literacy Project and is funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Joe Woolley is the state coordinator of the Tennessee forums project, which was launched in partnership with API, NLP and The Poynter Institute and is funded by the Pyramid Peak Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

National Community and News Literacy Roundtables Project

The project’s aim is to bring local news, civic and academic institutions together to discuss a critical issue in a local community both with community members and through a media lens. Local partners helped recruit diverse mixes of residents to participate in discussions about what those residents thought they knew, how they knew it, what information they still sought and how local coverage informed their decision-making about community issues. 

Project launches in Newark, New Jersey

  • Partners: Montclair State University, WBGO, Brick City Live and Glocally Newark
  • Focus: Newark’s redevelopment and the concepts of revitalization and gentrification. It became a significant part of Montclair State’s annual national conference and helped shape their “Engage Local” theme. 
  • Highlights: The conference kicked off with a large public forum and followed up the next day with a smaller, facilitated community roundtable. There have since been two follow-up discussions organized by news ambassadors in Newark, and there are plans to revisit the subject this spring as part of Newark’s 350th anniversary activities. 

Further success in Rockford, Illinois

  • Partner: Rockford Register Star
  • Focus: Affordable housing and a proposed development that was polarizing the community. Previous public forums about the development had devolved into chaos, and the rhetoric surrounding the issue had reached a vitriolic level. 
  • Highlights: The roundtable was a two-night event to establish the facts surrounding the development in order to reset the tone of the dialogue around the topic and bring together opposing sides in a way that remained civil and productive. Local coverage of the events zeroed in on its success as a fact-based civil dialogue that brought together opposing sides for the first time. We are working with the Register Star on next steps to maintain these efforts in their community. 

2015 closes with two strong roundtables

  • In Baton Rouge, we partnered with Louisiana State University’s Manship School and focused on coverage of the Louisiana governor’s race. 
  • In Columbus, Ohio, we partnered with The Columbus Dispatch, The Ohio State University and The Columbus Foundation on a large-scale event tied to an important reporting project by the Dispatch on the rate of suicide in the state. 

Roundtables were also held in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; New York City; and Lexington, Kentucky.

In 2016, efforts will focus on strong media-led partnerships and those communities where the project can be implemented consistently, have measurable impact, and be the catalyst for ongoing community engagement and civil discourse. We look forward to working with the Times-Union in Albany, New York; the Houston Chronicle; the Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune; Temple University in Philadelphia; Arizona State University and News21 in Phoenix; and any other communities or media partners with the capacity for and commitment to establishing the structure for ongoing community conversations. 

Tennessee Tough Issues Forums

The forums were launched to help local communities engage with complex education issues. Thirteen forums were held in 2015, and topics ranged from the TNReady Standards, workforce development because of low standards, charter schools and the Achievement School District.
 
The forums project initially began with a specific focus on Common Core State Standards. However, the topic was adjusted as we met with community leaders, parents and educators, and the focus shifted to news literacy in other education issues because Tennessee was moving toward its own TNReady Standards around education.

Project launches in Memphis

  • Focus: The first forum focused on the Achievement School District in Memphis and used a strict news literacy curriculum that was created with help from NLP. 
  • Highlights: Fifteen people, including teachers, ASD employees and administrators from traditional and charter schools, participated. At the forum, it became apparent that the news literacy piece was wanted and needed. The forum was able to offer a “primer” for tough conversations about controversial education topics.

Further success in Nashville 

  • Partner: Project Renaissance
  • Focus: The forum focused on news literacy with an emphasis on charter versus neighborhood traditional schools.   
  • Highlights: With 72 parents in attendance, the forum helped them understand their educational options. 

Each forum kicked off with news literacy conversations, including where participants got their news and how that shaped their view of the topic. When a contentious point was brought up, participants and the moderator would refer back to the news literacy section.  

More forums are planned across the state in 2016. The forums project will maintain a close partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education as the TNReady Standards continues to roll out. 

If you want to get a tough conversation started in your community, then contact Clair Lorell at clorell@asne.org, Joe Woolley at jwoolley@asne.org or ASNE at asne@asne.org. 

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