The owner of The Washington Post is giving $250,000 to the News Literacy Project, a nonprofit that supports teaching middle and high school students to separate fact from opinion and to appreciate the value of high-quality news.
Jeff Bezos, better known as the CEO of behemoth retailer Amazon.com., purchased the Post in 2013. His tenure has been marked by experimentation with the site’s metered paywall, content format, and testing of different headlines to see which ones resonate with readers.
The $250,000 gift is, uh, not a lot money for Bezos (he’s worth nearly $113 billion, according to Forbes), but it is interesting considering his ownership of the Post. It’s not hard to see this gift not just as a statement of support for reputable journalism, but also as part of a long strategy: Young readers with an appreciation for the news are more likely to become future subscribers.
The donation equals about a quarter of the News Literacy Project’s annual revenue, according to its 2015 nonprofit tax filing.
The group’s CEO, Alan Miller, said in a statement that it would help the organization meet a “massive amount of new interest in our programs” in recent months.
Media literacy has gained more attention in this era of cries of “fake news,” as educators and researchers alike fret over students’ inability to distinguish between reputable and biased sources of news, and between fact and opinion. Social scientists at the Rand Corp. have pointed to the rise of hyper-partisan news sites as one of the contributing factors behind “truth decay,” or increasing disagreement about the facts necessary for basic governance and policymaking.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, has been in the news itself lately thanks to a well regarded feature film, “The Post,” that dramatizes the newspaper’s decision to report on the Pentagon Papers in the early 1970s. In Academy Award nominations announced the same day as the news literacy grant, the film received two nominations.
Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, speaks at an event at the White House in 2016.—Susan Walsh/AP-File
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.