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.
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.