Media literacy for today’s media

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to meet with Mark Jurkowitz of the Pew Research Center. Taking Intro to Communication Research at Whitworth gave me an overview to the type of work the communication researchers conduct. I was impressed and interested to hear from Pew because it is a real-life application of an organization that does type of work I studied for an entire semester to analyze human communication, with a specific focus on journalistic communication.

It was fascinating to hear from Pew as well as the Columbia Journalism Review, because both take time to critique the media, which is something I believe we all should be doing as consumers of media and potential journalists ourselves. I often find myself trusting my “go to” news sources for sports news such as ESPN and The Seattle Times without critiquing for biases or wrongdoings that may be a part of their news coverage.

During our visit I was struck with an idea Jurkowitz mentioned for how the next generation of media consumers should be prepared to interpret media messages.

He thought that ideally media criticism courses for learning how to interpret the media should be taught at the elementary school level. Especially in this age and state of media, youth need to be educated about how to interpret the many types of media messages that are presented to them.

Cartoon courtesy of Juice Marketing.The Internet has allowed for many types of media messages from all types of people, journalists or not. Media literacy is needed to interpret and critique media messages.

Cartoon courtesy of Juice Marketing.
The Internet (and specifically social media) has allowed for many types of media messages from all types of people, journalists or not. News and opinions are everywhere. Media literacy is needed to interpret and critique media messages.

Having media literacy and being able to watch, read and listen to media messages with a critical eye is a skill that has and always will be important for media consumers. Especially in the world of news today, a plethora of mediums exist (newspaper, television, Internet, smartphones, tablets, etc.) and the emphasis on being first to report can sometimes create an overload of media messages with information that cannot always be trusted.

Jurkowitz said a major question for the future of journalism is trying to determine who will pay for quality journalism. Online journalism is exploding, and the audience is not the problem for journalism presently, it’s the money revenue. Without a consistent model for knowing how to gain revenue from online news, media organizations are in a tough spot.

It’s a daunting, scary but also fascinating problem. But regardless, media literacy is a skill that news consumers should have. It’s my hope that critiquing media will be a skill that the majority of media consumers can develop.

The Manti Te’o story fits perfectly into the state of media right now. You have an entire industry latching on to a great college football story. (CJR wrote a great piece critiquing the media’s obsession with the backstory). Nobody fact checks this season-long story. Instead, Deadspin fact checks and breaks the story. Deadspin is a sports blog started in 2005 started by Will Leitch, and it quickly became the most popular independent sports blog on the web. Essentially citizen journalists; people on the Internet with a passion for sports found this story. Not the accomplished editors of major newspapers. These people went the extra mile to double-check the facts, a crucial piece of the news process that is being undervalued or simply cut-out of the news production process nowadays.

This is the reality of media. We can’t know the future, but to some extent we can see where it is headed. No matter what, media literacy will be invaluable. It would be something special to see if Jurkowitz’s hope for media literacy in schools became a reality and we could become a better-educated people in the way we interpret our news.

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  1. #1 by mpelham14 on January 26, 2013 - 6:44 pm

    I left a Facebook post yesterday on the Te’o story and it’s still bugging me. Talking about it continuously makes me feel like I’m just like everybody else that won’t get off his back. But I feel like the sports media nowadays vultures on every little thing to ruin celebrity athletes’ reputations. I don’t know if its to take them off their high horse or knock them down a peg or two to bring them more toward our level.
    I could be wrong though also, very wrong in fact. Because the argument can be made in reply that the sports media “vultures” are simply doing their jobs; they’re shedding the light for the public because they have the right to know. I do understand that. Especially when it comes to the Tiger Woods saga or Kobe Bryant rape scandal. But when its a college athlete our age? And after hearing the facts of what sick thing happened to him, the media just wants to bring him down and accuse him of being in on it because that would be one HELL of a story.
    The sports media should be human for once. Maybe take the position of filling Mantei Te’o’s shoes. Let the case go so he can focus on two things: preparing for the NFL draft and completing his college degree.

  2. #2 by aforhan14 on January 30, 2013 - 9:36 pm

    I saw that post. I think it’s an ongoing debate about how to pursue and cover these athletes that are not yet professionals. They get a huge amount of attention, but at the same time are about the age we are and are technically amateur athletes. It’s really hard to think about us taking media attention like Te’o is right now. I’m glad you have thought critically about the whole situation as well.

  3. #3 by ltrego on January 31, 2013 - 7:20 am

    I love your point about Pew relating back to Comm Research. That honestly didn’t cross my mind during that meeting, but it’s a great connection to make. I love seeing the ways in which our classes prepare us to face this big media world, especially the classes like Research that we’re all prone to complaining about.

    In regards to the Te’o story, I have to wonder why this is the kind of story our society is seeking to begin with. Disregarding questions of media integrity as it relates to accuracy, it seems funny to me that celebrity gossip takes up so much of the current media. This truly is what the audience is paying for right now. There are a couple of interesting questions about the future of the media that can be raised by this story–accuracy and subject.

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