Journalists in Classrooms (JiC) is a grassroots community organization that seeks to increase news literacy among k-12 students by sending reporters into classrooms as guest speakers. The program has three overarching goals: 1.) To humanize journalists; 2.) To illuminate the relationship between a strong independent press and a functioning democracy, 3.) To arm students with the tools to distinguish fact-based storytelling from advertising or fake news.

The internet environment that immerses today’s k-12 students is full of confusing signals about what information merits trust. Trustworthy reporting now manifests on our phone screens alongside deceiving fabrications in an unending and constantly updating scroll of online posts. A 2016 report from researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education found students mistook advertisements for news stories and were fooled by a fake account made to look like it belonged to a well-known media organization. Researchers said results raised concerns about the future of democracy.

We need to educate youth on how to navigate the digital information jungle, and empower them to think critically as engaged members of their communities. However, school districts need considerable time and resources to develop these skills among their students, and at this point the state of California is not forthcoming with substantial guidance or funding.

We believe the solution is to put a face on real journalism.

JiC connects professional journalists with schools and educators. Our approach is live and interactive: Guest speakers visit classrooms in person, where they explain the process by which they report and produce fact-driven stories for print, broadcast and/or digital news audiences. In addition to possessing unique expertise about today’s media environment, JiC has the flexibility to adapt the content of visits to existing education standards and requirements. These presentations provide kids with a concrete model for how to better distinguish quality information sources from misinformation and conspiracy theories. It also teaches them to value the work that goes into accurate journalism. Greater understanding of news media can inspire kids to participate in scholastic journalism, which is shown to improve academic performance.

JiC also provides support and guidance to teachers seeking to incorporate news literacy into their classes beyond guest speaker visits. We do this by working with interested teachers to build additional lessons around guest speaker visits by journalists, and by offering career development opportunities such as workshops on the principals of news literacy that introduce teachers to free tools they can use in their classrooms. The ethics and best practices of journalism can be opaque to the general public. We aim to make them transparent to teachers so that they may carry that knowledge into the classroom.

How we consume media has evolved. How we understand what we consume must catch up. Bridging the gap starts with introducing young people to the reporters behind the headlines. JiC makes real news visible to the next generation.

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