News Literacy, a curriculum created at the Stony Brook School of Journalism, is now taught at universities in Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Australia, Russia, Hong Kong, and Poland. Partner universities in Hong Kong and Poznan, Poland have formally established regional news literacy centers that actively spread our curriculum to nearby countries. The Vietnam National University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City will begin spreading news literacy in Southeast Asia in 2017.
The Stony Brook course teaches critical thinking about news and information. Each partner institution adapts and adopts the curriculum to meet local needs and conditions, but they all adhere to the key concepts of the course, sharing with their students the same lessons that over 10,000 Stony Brook undergraduates have learned in the past 8 years.
Richard Hornik, who has directed these efforts since 2012, is a lecturer at the School of Journalism and a former TIME Magazine foreign correspondent with over 20 years of experience in Asia and Eastern Europe. Hornik’s background has played a large role in the success of this Overseas Partnership Program, but the idea and the funding came from an anonymous donor who saw a particular need for News Literacy in what he described as ‘transitional media societies.’
As he explained his concept to Journalism School Dean Howard Schneider in early 2012, many countries such as China were moving from news media that were completely controlled by the authorities to more open information environments. Whereas in the past most people knew that the state-controlled media tended to completely one-sided coverage, social media and other pressures had begun to make them more balanced and fact-based.
That, coupled with explosion of unfiltered information on social media platforms, had created new challenges for citizens trying to finding reliable information, challenges that News Literacy is uniquely equipped to address.
Introducing this course has presented interesting challenges in each country, not least of which was deciding what to call it, as news literacy can be difficult to translate. In Vietnam, for example, the Journalism Department of University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City has produced, with our help, a 100-page booklet packed with News Literacy lessons, but they call it a Manual for Smart Readers.
The process of spreading News Literacy has created a community of educators who now regularly share their insights, innovations and frustrations with each other. Perhaps the most remarkable element of this process is the way these interactions have reshaped the way we teach News Literacy at Stony Brook. In effect, we have created a globalized curriculum from what began as a particularly American take on what constitutes reliable information in the 21st Century.
In January 2016, the Center for News Literacy will launch its first online course, Making Sense of the News, using the Coursera platform. The subject will be news literacy, but this MOOC is only possible because of the work done by our partner at the U of Hong Kong.