The what and why of Media Literacy
Media literacy is ability to access, evaluate, and comprehend the messages involved in modern communication. Consumers of information need to be able to recognize if the source of information is credible. They need to understand if the writer or media has a hidden agenda; if they are writing with an intent to sway the consumer in some way to further a specific cause. They need to be able to differentiate between fact and opinion. Consumers need to develop high level critical thinking skills, and expose themselves to information from a variety of sources, not just those that make themselves comfortable. They need to be able to read between the lines of articles, see where bias or misinformation resides, and properly eliminate the noise from the media.
Recognizing the manipulations that take place in politics and mass media is not a simple task. Understanding semantics and having an advanced knowledge of rhetoric are the best defenses against getting trapped in the double-talk so prevalent in the media today. All media, especially mass media, is not created equally. Media literacy gives people the tools to properly discern the good from the bad, the information from the disinformation, and the facts from the opinion. Just as students learn to read the written word, then understand the concepts of sub-text and metaphor in literature, the same discoveries must happen with consuming modern forms of communication.
Social media is full of so much misinformation and disinformation that is hard to tell fact from fiction. During research students couldn’t even properly discern between verified and unverified Facebook pages let alone the content presented. For this reason we need to think seriously about developing Media Literacy studies at all levels of education. This has moved from a nice-to-have course, to a major need for all students at all levels. Just like we strive to make sure our children are literate – being able to read, write, do basic math, and communicate effectively – we now need to make sure our children are literate in their selections of media and are equipped with the skills and knowledge to discern good from bad information.
When we think of media, and being literate about the media, we come back to the following foundations. There is a theoretical, comprehension, research and articulation component to being literate about media, each equally important to one another, and building off each other. Developing a competency in each component is crucial to mastering the consumption of media and becoming an effective media consumer.
Media Literacy is an urgent and critical need, mostly because of the democratizing effect that understanding information has on populations. We can solve so many problems through cooperative efforts, but only if people are informed with the same facts. With the mass media no longer providing the quality analysis that had been done in the past, that responsibility now lands at the feet of the consumer. Our democracy and our society will only be as strong as the decisions made by the voters, and the voters will only make sound decisions if they are able to find truth in the maelstrom of information available in the mass media
The information from this page has been provided by the author of "The Trump Card: The long game of discrediting media and stealing elections," and is used with written permission.