Why News Matters: Request For Ideas


The McCormick Foundation is looking for innovative ideas to extend our reach and impact in news literacy to Chicagoans of all ages and backgrounds. We will invest as much as $6 million in the next three years in the Why News Matters initiative. We are interested in supporting projects that address:

  • Education: Integrate news literacy into public schools, after-school programs and community education settings. May include blending news literacy into Common Core classroom lessons.
  • Training: Provide opportunities for Chicagoans to learn and teach others about news literacy. May include curriculum for adults and train-the-trainer workshops.
  • Awareness & Engagement: Increase public understanding of news literacy principles. May include marketing campaigns, social media, web portals, apps, games, art programs and public service announcements.
  • Research & Evaluation: Evaluate the impact of news literacy on student performance and civic engagement. May include program evaluation, design and implementation of assessment tools and other research on a sector-wide or project-level basis.

Why News Matters will not replace the Journalism Program’s current grantmaking framework of Content, Audience and Rights. Rather, it is intended to better focus the current framework and make it more effective in addressing news literacy needs in Chicago. To better understand the CAR grantmaking framework, review the Journalism Grantmaking Guidelines and our current Logic Model. We anticipate that most Why News Matters projects will fall under the Audience category of funding, while a few may fall within the Content and Rights categories.

Learning and Action Agenda

At its best, news literacy programs help citizens develop critical thinking skills, civic responsibility and respect for First Amendment freedoms. There are many aspects of news literacy we hope to better understand in coming years. Here are some of the questions we have discussed in creating Why News Matters:

  • To what degree will civic engagement and knowledge of current events increase through news literacy programs?
  • How do news literacy programs impact student success?
  • What are the most effective ways to engage middle school, high school and college students in news literacy?
  • Research indicates that the principles of news literacy are best learned through interactive, hands-on learning. Do students make strides in news literacy by creating and consuming content that addresses topics of importance to youth?
  • Can news literacy content be incorporated into curriculum implementing Common Core standards? What other opportunities are there to apply the values of news literacy in Common Core curriculum?
  • What are the most effective ways to engage adults and seniors in news literacy activities?
  • Can news literacy be incorporated with existing adult literacy programs? What about existing job training programs?
  • Are there strategies for engaging specific ethnic groups?
  • What role can youth play in teaching people of all ages the principles of news literacy?
  • Is there potential for news literacy programs to collaborate with other literacies – financial, health and civic?
  • How does news literacy overlap with Digital Literacy, Information Literacy and Media Literacy?
  • Are there effective ways for news organizations to engage their audiences in news literacy?
  • What shared activities, web portals, and collective learning might help bring ‘glue’ to the individual projects funded through this initiative?

Please visit our Why News Matters resources page for links to news literacy programs and research.


To apply, register as a user and fill out this brief application form on our online application system. Note: If you are a new user to our online application system, you'll need to enter your e-mail address and create a password. If you already are registered with us, you can use your existing McCormick Grant Request log in and password. (Current grantees: This is the same log in and password you used to complete your year-end grant reports). 

The application form includes:   

  • Your idea: Give us your elevator pitch. (100 words or less)
  • Audience: Who would your initiative target and why? (50 words or less)
  • Timeline: Provide a rough overview of the timeframe. (50 words or less)
  • Budget: What is the estimated cost of the program? (25 words or less)
  • Mission statement: Copy and paste your organization’s mission statement.
  • Expertise: Why is your organization suited to carry out the project? (50 words or less)
  • Evaluation: How you would evaluate the impact of your project? (50 words or less)
  • Additional thoughts: Anything else you’d like to add.(50 words or less)

The deadline for submissions is April 2, 2012. Organizations can apply with more than one idea. If your application is selected, we will contact you by late April to request a more detailed letter of inquiry. By mid-June, selected applicants will be invited to submit full proposals.

Grant winners will be notified in September 2012 and will receive their funding in January 2013.

Ideas can be submitted by 501c3 nonprofit organizations, as well as individuals and businesses partnering with tax-exempt organizations. If you are invited to submit a final proposal, you must select a fiscal agent that is a 501c3.

This initiative is focused on the Chicago area, though we will consider select national programs that have impact on news literacy in Chicago.


The Foundation plans to invest as much as $2 million in 2013 in the Why News Matters initiative, and we anticipate investing another $4 million in the following two years.A few grants will have budgets of more than $50,000 a year, but most will be funded at less than $50,000

In 2013, the majority of projects are likely to be one-year demonstration grants. A select group may be funded for two years or longer. We are in the final stages of developing a news literacy logic model that will shape Why News Matters as a multi-year initiative around tiered outcomes.

If you have questions or comments, please email Aaron Smith. The Journalism Program staff will review your questions and get back to you by phone or e-mail.

Learn more about attending an informational session or webinar about Why News Matters>   

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Chicago, IL 60601

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McCormick Foundation
205 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 4300
Chicago, IL 60601

Phone: 312 445 5000
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Email: info@mccormickfoundation.org