Lester Holt to become the first ambassador for MediaWise, Poynter’s digital literacy initiative for teens

February 13, 2019
Category: News Release

The NBC News anchor will join Poynter’s MediaWise project to help educate the next generation of news consumers.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Feb. 13, 2019) – The Poynter Institute, a global nonprofit dedicated to excellence in journalism, is pleased to announce that “NBC Nightly News” and “Dateline NBC” anchor Lester Holt will join the MediaWise project as its first MediaWise Ambassador.

The mission of the project is to teach 1 million teenagers — half from underserved communities — how to sort fact from fiction online by 2020 through new curriculum, in-person events at schools nationwide and social media content and outreach.

“Fact-checking and identifying trustworthy sources is something I’ve done every day for over four decades,” said Lester Holt, Anchor of “NBC Nightly News.” “But in today’s noisy media environment, those skills are just as important for our readers and viewers as they are for those of us doing the reporting. MediaWise will help instill those values at a young age and I’m honored to play a small part in educating a new generation of thoughtful and discerning news consumers.”

In his first appearance as MediaWise Ambassador, Holt will help lead a MediaWise teaching event today at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington D.C. to teach hundreds of teens how to spot misinformation and disinformation online, as well as practical skills to help them do it on their own. In his new role, Holt will also be contributing content for the project’s social media efforts.


RELATED: What is MediaWise?


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Holt first encountered MediaWise in December when he received the Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism.

“Lester Holt is the most trusted man in the news business and exactly the type of person we want as a champion for our cause,” said Katy Byron, MediaWise editor and program manager at Poynter. “His reporting has always been neutral, reliable and accurate. I’m thrilled he wants to support MediaWise and raise awareness of the important digital literacy issues we are tackling with this project.”

While teens are generally regarded as digitally savvy, research from Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) shows that the vast majority of teenagers have trouble navigating digital information — whether it’s viral hoaxes on Instagram, misinformation campaigns on Facebook, or sponsored content on news websites. The goal of the MediaWise project is to teach teenagers critical thinking and fact-checking skills, equip them to make smarter decisions on their own and help curb the spread of misinformation.

The MediaWise project is part of the Google News Initiative and funded by Google.org. The Poynter-led project includes contributions from partners SHEG, Local Media Association (LMA) and National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE).

The primary way MediaWise will reach 1 million teens is through middle school and high school curriculum being designed by SHEG that will be available to teachers across the country this fall to download — for free. While the curriculum is being piloted and tested, the MediaWise team at Poynter is working with LMA and NAMLE to visit schools and teach the fact-checking skills the curriculum is built on.

Today’s event with Holt adds to the momentum that began at the start of the year when Byron and her team taught 5,000 students at three schools in Houston. Schools in a dozen states from West Virginia to Hawaii have invited the MediaWise team to teach their students.

MediaWise seeks to empower students to get involved and has launched a first-of-its-kind teen fact-checking network committed to identifying questionable claims on social media. They are working with multimedia reporters Allison Graves and Hiwot Hailu to publish fact-check videos on the @MediaWise accounts on Instagram and other platforms.

The project is also working with influential YouTube Creators to produce educational videos, like best-selling young adult author John Green, who wrote “The Fault in Our Stars.” Green partnered with MediaWise to create the 10-part Navigating Digital Information series on his popular YouTube channel CrashCourse, which has 9 million subscribers. Other YouTube Creators like Destin Sandlin of SmarterEveryDay, Alonzo Lerone and Mark Watson of Soldier Knows Best will promote the MediaWise message and tips online.

Reaching young people is the crux of the MediaWise mission. Raley Long, a 15-year-old from St. Petersburg, Florida, an inaugural member of the MediaWise teen fact-checking network, said her friends and family constantly spread inaccurate information online and they don’t even know it. “This project is special because it starts teaching people how to spot false information early in their life,” she said. “These lessons will continue through our lives, and will eventually help stop the spread of misinformation,” she added.


For more information, visit Poynter.org/MediaWise.


About The Google News Initiative
The Google News Initiative is Google’s effort to bring together everything we do as a company — across products, partnerships, and programs — to help journalism thrive in the digital age. We are focused on three key objectives: elevating quality information, evolving business models to support quality journalism, and empowering news organizations to use new technology to meet their needs. Learn more at https://newsinitiative.withgoogle.com/about

About Google.org
Google.org brings together the power of Google’s people, products, and resources to impact critical problems around the world. Since 2005, Google.org has worked to extend the reach of nonprofit innovators. Though each nonprofit’s project poses a fresh challenge, we ask the same question every time: “How can we bring the best of Google to power their work and accelerate their progress?” In 2018, we donated $240M+ to nonprofits around the globe, and Googlers gave more than $56M+ of their own money and 227k hours of volunteer time. Learn more at https://www.google.org/

About The Poynter Institute
The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is a global leader in journalism education and a strategy center that stands for uncompromising excellence in journalism, media and 21st-century public discourse. Poynter faculty teach seminars and workshops at the Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, and at conferences and organizations around the world. Its e-learning division, News University, offers the world’s largest online journalism curriculum, with hundreds of interactive courses and tens of thousands of registered international users. The Institute’s website, poynter.org, produces 24-hour coverage about media, ethics, technology and the business of news. Poynter is the home of the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact, the International Fact-Checking Network and MediaWise, a teen digital information literacy project. The world’s top journalists and media innovators come to Poynter to learn and teach new generations of reporters, storytellers, media inventors, designers, visual journalists, documentarians and broadcasters. This work builds public awareness about journalism, media, the First Amendment and discourse that serves democracy and the public good. Learn more at poynter.org

Contact:
Tina Dyakon
Director of Marketing
727-553-4343
tdyakon@poynter.org

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