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Case study: Poynter

Poynter trained hundreds of students on spotting misinformation.


The Poynter Institute is the world's leading journalism insitute, supporting anti-misinformation efforts globally.

In 2018, the Poynter Institute founded MediaWise, a digital literacy program dedicated to helping users sort fact from fiction. Since its launch, MediaWise has taught more than 9 million users of all ages how to navigate the confusing clutter of social media information. In early 2020, false information was at an all time high surrounding one pressing issue: politics. With a key presidential election just around the corner, MediaWise launched the Voter Project to teach first-time voters everywhere how to discern data-backed information.

"We try to be as forward-looking as possible when it comes to tech. We are always trying to stay on top of the latest platform in terms of learning via social media."


Alex's discovery

Alex Mahadevan, a senior reporter for MediaWise, was excited to reach thousands of voters the best way possible: face to face. Determined to reach young adults across the entire country, Mahadevan and his team initially planned on hitting the road, teaching digital literacy out of a bus at hundreds of colleges. When the pandemic brought a swift end to these plans, Mahadevan set out to find a way to deliver the same big results through technology.

"We generally try to make sure we are reaching out to those who are in rural areas or may not have as great internet access. So the text message platform just made the most sense for us."


Creating the course

Mahadevan teamed up with Arist to turn the Voter Project into a 10 day text message course, ready to be delivered directly to the phones of voters who needed it the most. By working closely with the Arist team, Mahadevan was able to fill each message with the powerful, data-backed curriculum MediaWise had worked to develop, and educate the voters that needed it the most. As the course progressed, Mahadevan’s team kept a close watch on their impact through their Arist dashboard, providing key analytics each day.

"The Arist dashboard is extremely helpful. It’s responsive and the UI is really great."


Unbelievable results and meaningful impact

As Election Day drew near, over 1,600 young voters enrolled in the course. Each day, students received a text message from top reporters, anchors and media specialists.

By delivering only 5 minutes of information per day, MediaWise saw an incredible completion rate of 87%. This record high course engagement showed Mahadevan the power of connecting with users through text message education.

With the election behind us, Mahadevan and the MediaWise team will be continuously updating their Arist course while launching new Arist courses to keep fighting for facts in 2021.

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