“I’m looking for someone who will sponsor the school newspaper and yearbook, but I’m more interested in someone who will teach our general students about the importance of the media.”   — Administrator from New Jersey seeking a journalism teacher

Today’s digital and social media represent new and highly effective platforms for providing information and entertainment. However, with the rise of new media, the need for media-literate consumers and producers is even more pressing.

As the nationally recognized Common Core State Standards suggest, today’s college- and career-ready students must be discerning, independent and open-minded thinkers.

According to the National Association for Media Literacy, students who develop media-literate dispositions are able to access, analyze, evaluate and communicate across mediums and are better equipped for their role as engaged citizens in a media-saturated world.

See www.namle.net for an extended definition of media literacy.

Educating students to be critical media consumers requires teaching students to apply literacy skills to new and traditional media. Media literacy empowers both media producers and consumers in similar and distinct ways, and the educational outcomes are numerous.

Media-literate producers:

  • Understand the economic forces that affect content, production and distribution of media
  • Use the most appropriate medium for the content being produced
  • Respect their role as gatekeepers of information
  •  Recognize how consumers respond to information presentation and adjust content accordingly
  • Strive for transparency and accountability always
  • Engage media consumers in reflective dialogue that improves the product
  • Acknowledge their own personal biases as they affect media creation
  • Apply appropriate and responsible media law knowledge (i.e. libel, privacy law) to personal media use

Media-literate consumers:

  • Acknowledge that media producers have profit incentives, and content reflects this
  • Discern appropriate, knowledgeable sources
  • Understand the role of gatekeepers in the communication process
  • Recognize visual and rhetorical strategies used to hide or elucidate truth and facts
  • Identify flaws in argument or omission of relevant information
  • Acknowledge personal or professional agendas inherent in some media
  • Seek varied viewpoints for the sake of context and depth of information
  • Demand transparency and accountability from media producers
  • Engage with media producers via social media, letters to the editor or other forums
  • Acknowledge their own personal biases as they affect media consumption

Educators should remember that becoming media literate is an ongoing process — as media forms change and evolve, so too do media-literate practices. The skills and dispositions that build media literacy today may not be sufficient for the future, so opportunities to develop these skills should be a long-term priority

Scholastic journalism is an especially appropriate venue to develop media literacy because those who consume the product are also producing it. Scholastic journalism builds media literacy in myriad ways.

Student journalists:

  • Experience the editorial process from start to finish, and they also learn the economic constraints of media as a business
  • Act as reporters and budget managers because advertising funds generally support the media they produce
  • Think critically about who is best able to provide reliable, accurate information
  • Interact daily with those they cover, creating pressure for accuracy, sensitivity and newsworthiness
  • Provide a forum for reader engagement, modeling appropriate and responsible ways young citizens interact with media in the future

Post-publication, student journalists are consumers in their own news market, where they experience first-hand how other student and adult consumers receive and interpret their journalistic choices. In short, the scholastic journalism experience is a live, hands-on practicum in media literacy skills.

See also: Six principles behind news literacy
Journalism Educator Standards
The value of empowering student decision-making
Career Technical Education (CTE)
Civic engagement and journalism
Partnership in 21st Center Skills
Common Core Standards
Ties to educational initiatives
Informed communities