What is Media Literacy? Why does it matter?

Media literacy is the ability to look at a source and be able to determine if that is something you should be taking to heart, or it could be something that needs more research before you can actually have a good understanding on the subject. If you want to read a detailed argument about why this is actually important, I would love if you hopped over to the Flor-ala to check out Harley Duncan’s ideas behind why it is so important and needs to be taught in school.  Essentially, it is more important than ever that students and adults alike learn how to decide what the whole story is behind a situation.

Quick lesson #1: Video News and Framing

Be sure to understand what the source of the information is. Video news is more visual source, and this can mean a news is using a camera to give you their understanding of the materials. This is a literal term of “framing” which means that only part of the story is told. It is not because the news agency has a set agenda it is trying to do, but instead there are physical limits on how much information they can present at any given time. Think of it with how magicians perform their magic on camera. The trick could be incredibly simple, but you can’t see the trick.  While magicians use frames to conceal, news tries to put as much information into their story before the frame cuts a bit off. No news source is perfect and it is possible that some important facts were left out. That is when you get your key to check out some other source and see if they have that missing information.


gifsource: Slydini - Paper balls over the head

Quick Lesson #2:  Framing : the good and the bad

Despite there being frames, not every news source is out to mislead you. There are certainly sources out there that are meant to mislead your viewpoint by tightening the frame, but generally this isn’t the case when it comes to the top news sources. Even Fox News covers the big topics, and can pick up on the missed information looked over by other broadcasters. The term “Fake News” has been thrown around alot lately, and it has caused a great deal of distrust in news. True fake news is purposefully wrong stories published to harm, and this is definitely illegal already. Major news sources both in broadcast and publishing go through layers and layers of fact checking and have the most professional reporters out there. A great example of this is how  You will more likely find a fake news story on Facebook through a blog similar to my own. It could be from a web based news writer who started their own small company and either does not care to fact check or blatantly is seeking to harm public opinion.  A good example of how reporters go the extra mile to fact check is the case with the Washington Post and Project Veritas. In this situation, a woman was hired to pose as a Roy Moore accuser and fake her entire story to a reporter, but in the end the reporter did her research and found the true intentions. On the side of true news, you can see the Washington Post pushing to have a well rounded story and verify that it is in fact true, where as you have the other party that is willing to put false statements forward to just tear down a whole debate essentially by destroying the foundation of trust.

Quick Tip #3: Do I really have to do tons of research?

Not at all! While every source can keep building on your perspective, it may be best to just focus on a small number of different sources that generally look at a subject differently. MSNBC and Fox form a great combination in broadcast because they are so extreme in their viewpoints. Neither of them are actually wrong in their reporting, they just choose what they genuinely believe to be the most important facts you need to see. I would then say it is best to find a neutral source, maybe in print or other network. You can easily find these on social media as they are simple to share and simple to consume. New York Times, Washington Post and many long standing papers are great sources for this. At this point, you should have a decent understanding of the subject and be able to make a decision for yourself. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • What really happened?
  • What were some major differences between the sources?
  • Why would these sources take that side?
  • Do I know the history behind this story?
  • How have this source responded to this in the past?

In the end, you make your own decision about what happened. The difference now is that you know more than just one point on how to get the information. Don’t let this get you overwhelmed though, because not every news article you read is going to need this level of understanding. Some things are cut and dry, but when it comes to a news article that got you so hyped up that you are about to write a Facebook post about it, I would strongly suggest doing at least a bit of looking around for that counter argument you may not have heard or considered.

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