World Association of News Publishers

News Literacy: origins and recent practice

News Literacy: origins and recent practice

Article ID:


For WAN-IFRA, engaging in news literacy means helping citizens, especially children and teenagers, understand, value and participate in 21st century journalism in a democracy as they analyze all kinds of content, most effectively through a journalistic prism.

News iiteracy was first developed in the early 21st century as a separate discipline by American journalists. On the university level, the instigator was Howard Schneider, who left his post as editor of Newsday to found the school of journalism at Stony Brook University and the Center for News Literacy.

Meanwhile, for lower grades Alan Miller, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, founded The News Literacy Project in 2008 after speaking to his daughter's Bethesda, Maryland, middle school class about journalism and why it matters.

News literacy is already being adapted in other countries. For example Professor Masato Kajimotois, a former CNN reporter, offers a course in "Making Sense of News"

As with any scholarly discipline, academics have different views about a definition. For Stony Brook it is "The ability to use critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports form all media: print, TV, radio or the web." For the News Literacy Project, which targets secondary school students, news literacy "teaches that all information is not created equal. It uses the standards of quality journalism as an aspirational yardstick to determine what information to believe, share and act on. It also fosters an understanding of the role of a free press in a democracy."

One extremely useful element that both original entities emphasize is that news literacy is a consideration of personal bias that affects what content one chooses to believe and share.

Internationally, the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change moves beyond a focus on journalism, noting that news literacy is important because "in changing news environments, students of all ages need to learn about news not only through established practices and venues, but also as content pertains to new modes of voice expression and perspective on a global scale."


In 2008, Dr. Paul Mihailidis, now of Emerson College and director of the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change, did research that found surprisingly negative outcomes of a well-meaning media literacy course. At the bottom of the page, you can download the report he did report for WAN-IFRA on that research. It remains chilling reading. [The download is at the bottom of this page. We will ask you to register so we'll know who is interested in this topic.]

The  Salzburg Academy, in Austria, offers courses and research on media literacy with a strong news literacy focus. Mihailidis is also editor of News Literacy, Global Perspectives for the Newsroom and Classroom (2012, Peter Lang)

One of the world's leading media literacy experts is Dr. Renée Hobbs, head of the Media Education Lab, Harrington School of Communication and Media, University of Rhode Island (USA). Her 2010 plan of action for digital and media literacy still ranks as a solid backgrounder on the topic. Download it HERE

Finally, he Poynter Institute's News University offers two online courses on the topic of  "news media literacy."

For more about WAN-IFRA's own news literacy work, contact or Dr. Aralynn McMane, WAN-IFRA executive director for news literacy and youth engagement, -

Free download(s)

  • Beyond Cynicism Paul Mihailidis.pdf
  • Our free resources can be downloaded after you register once with us.

    Please login to download the material.

    If you do not have an account yet, please register HERE.

    Forgot your password? Click HERE.


Aralynn McMane's picture

Aralynn McMane


2016-05-11 16:43

Author information

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) helps newspapers, parents and teachers work together to engage the young to create a literate, civic-minded new generation of readers all over the world. Read more ...