From business to the Newseum: How one woman became a journalism teacher without being a journalist

Kim Ash is asking students how they use the web to spot fake news. (Photo courtesy of Ndeye Aminata Ndiaye)

Kim Ash is asking students how they use the web to spot fake news. (Photo courtesy of Ndeye Aminata Ndiaye)

If you are a Washington, D.C. resident, you have likely heard of the Newseum. But did you know about the course that is offered by the museum that teaches you how to spot fake news?

For Kim Ash, teaching a journalism course was not her initial calling. A double major in English and History at Dickinson College, Ash used her experience to get a teaching job at the Newseum. Without any advanced degree, she found her way through her capability of holding a room and creating a lesson plan.

“I worked with teachers for over 25 years,” Ash said. “I knew what they were looking for.”

She used her experience with teachers as a blueprint to build her path to her true calling.

When Ash first moved to the District in 1985, she became a bank teller. A year later, The Phillips Collection Museum in Dupont Circle recruited Ash as a public affairs assistant. At first, she started in public relations, handling fundraising. She was also part of the marketing and development team at the museum.

“I went in basically as a development person,” Ash said. “I learned a lot of hands-on with the marketing, doing the mailing, literally sitting on the floor in my office and stuffing and labeling.”

Ash became a public affairs associate coordinator and started the membership program at Phillips Collection Museum. She was in charge of the communication

“They gave me an opportunity and I just figure the rest out,” Ash said.

After her work at the museum, Ash was hired as a marketing manager at Congressional Quarterly in their book publishing department, where she drew closer to teaching. Ash said her close-knit relationship with colleges and teachers got her in the “groove of civics.”

Ash built her interest in current affairs by attending teacher conferences around the country. She used her networking skills to better understand politics and public affairs. During the late 90’s and early 2000s, she attracted the attention of  industry leaders with ability to help kids understand complex topics.

In 2003, Ash was hired by the Bill of Rights Institute marketing department. During her four-year stint with the Institute, she helped teachers develop curriculum for students and problem-solving skills.

She learned to distinguish what readers wanted by working alongside journalists employed at the Newseum and USA Today.

“I worked with a wide variety of personal experiences,” Ash said. “Everyone has to bring their own experience to the table. It makes it a much richer, more powerful tool because people are looking at the same topic in many different ways, which makes it more adaptable for teachers.”

After seven years of work with the Bill of Rights Institute, Ash in 2011 started her own marketing company called “Plan a Marketing Solutions.” Ash ran her business for four years, but decided to shut it down due to stress and burnout.

“I am glad I did it,” Ash said of shutting down the business “Sometimes you have to do something to realize, ‘Now I will never have to wonder about what if I start my own business because I know.’”

After shutting down her business, Ash in 2014 applied for a part-time teaching position at the Newseum. Her job at the Newseum focused on first amendment issues but for the last few years, Ash has veered toward media literacy. She believes that people need the tools to decipher what is good information and what is bad information.

Her courses are separated into two categories: civics on journalism history and media literacy. Ash’s“Fighting Fake News” class began September 2017 and has been offered ever since.

Since its launch, “Fighting Fake News” has been taught virtually around the country for people that are unable to come to the Newseum.

During the class, students participated in a survey to determine if they could spot fake news. They quickly realized they were not able to spot inaccuracies and started asking questions regarding how to make decisions if their information was based on false facts.

“When you realize that you can be fool, that’s make a different.” Ash said.

Ash is pleased at the end of every class, knowing she is helping students realize that fake stories can have a real life-or-death consequences.

Jessica Long, teacher at Highlands Christian school in California, is grateful for the course. She learned that it is very important to always fact check a story and said she will encourage her students to use tools such as Snopes to fact check sites.

“Now I can go the extra mile to make sure that when they fact check, they are doing it with a good site, rather than just going with what the site is saying,” Long said.

Highlands high schooler Nathan Burdos recognized that he had been fooled before by sites and believed he needed to pay more attention when he searched for information.

“You need to pay attention on what you read. Websites often give you wrong information and I will use common sense and the tools that I learn today to fact check a story,” Burdos said.

Johns Hopkins announced in January that it had reached agreement to purchase the building where the Newseum is located. With the future of the Newseum unclear, Kim hopes that their strong online presence will continue while the museum is transitioning. They are working on more content for the NewseumED website, and it will be free.