Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ethicks and Under-standing

Media ethics and media literacy are two of the most difficult subjects to capture in any venue. First off, there are a plethora of interpretations of the meanings of both, and none of them are right or wrong--entirely.

"Ethics" implies morality. When combined with the ambiguousness of "media," there is a thickness that pervades. The issue that seems to be the thickest of all is that of how new media and social media is affecting the relay of information. There is no sense of privacy anymore for anyone. Some feel threatened by this, and others liberated. When it comes down to it, if the result negatively affects *you* it's going to be unpleasant...and criticized. Ethics are relative, and therefore controversial. If we are in search of the truth as it pertains to the world and people around us, then why should we be ashamed of our own?

This leads us to the issue of "media literacy"--another monster of a term that has an incredible reach in terms of how it could be construed. In a very generic sense, you could say media literacy is being able to "understand" media--the content, reason, motive, etc. If we use media "understanding" as a definition for literacy, I would argue that there is no such thing. We are constantly in a state of "under"-standing; always situated somewhere below, not quite at full height..and not always "standing" up to see what is going on from other angles.

In both of these cases, I'm not entirely sure there is a way for media ethics or media literacy to have definable ideals. There's no way to honestly quantify their virtuousness or efficacy. Perhaps they are both processes by which we are constantly moving toward a better sense of ourselves and the world around us, but I question our definitions of morality and literacy altogether.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Model Blogger

I would not suggest that I fit the role of the title of this entry...this is really more of a reflection of issues in the media--a commentary of sorts--rather than being particularly informative or attempting to be influential. I suppose it could be considered a failure on my part that someone who promotes the need for media literacy and participation would not even attempt to make a good example of a well-educated, informed (and informative) community blogger.

On the other hand, I've discovered that blogs (and other social networking tools where posting responses is common) are an interesting way to throw thoughts, comments, ideas and even concerns out to the universe with the intention of creating some sort of dialogue--albeit informal. I have treasured some of the more impassioned discussions that have branched out over issues involving politics, religion, policy, and other issues--even innocuous ones about the weather or where to find the best food in cities I'm visiting.

There's something about the way these cyber connections work that makes me feel like there isn't so much distance between me and the rest of the world. Despite occasional inflammatory remarks from those who choose not to appreciate the sensitivity of online conversation, I think when people are willing to open themselves up to challenging ideas in online discussions that the end result can be very enriching and insightful.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Investigating Investigation

There used to be this thing called privacy.

I'm still on the fence about this, but I can say with some certainty (especially when it comes to celebrities) sometimes ignorance *IS* bliss.

Investigative journalism and muckraking--in its purest form--seems to be founded in the belief that there is truth out there that the masses need to know. Without this knowledge, the impartial picture will obscure the minds of people everywhere into making decisions or having ideas without decent foundations.

Knowing that Charlie Sheen is a raging, drug-abusing idiot is not my idea of something meriting that sort of journalism--but it has become important to the American people. I assume that's because we've lowered our own standards of what is important as viewing the train-wrecks of our romanticized idols.

We've even gone so far now as to uncover the truths of celebrities and politicians of ancient past in order to...what? get a clearer understanding of our past in order to create a better future? Not so much. Mostly it seems we're at it again with the train wrecks.

I understand that the media needs to have exciting and juicy stories to interest and engage readers, watchers and listeners, but have we forgotten the purpose of investigative journalism altogether? Sometimes getting a little dirt on your hands for the sake of uncovering important information is good...but don't forget what happens to dirt when it gets all wet.

The masses need more than gossip and inconsequential exposes to help them be informed citizens. It would be great if we stopped lowering the importance of investigative reporting to something out of a tabloid and started looking at the issues that actually might have some significance and meaning--and let the celebrities have this lovely thing called privacy. Maybe then they wouldn't feel like they needed to do drugs all the time...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Justifying the Importance of Journalism Courses in Schools

What makes a successful student?

I would argue that the answer goes much further than intelligence, basic skill, connections and other traditionally beneficial advantages.

Regardless of studies that have shown this to be true, I think there is a validity in the common sense concept that students who learn and practice good media production are more apt to succeed in school, work and life.

Reason #1: Participating in student media is empowering. When you are given the chance to write or speak to a mass audience, there is a feeling of accomplishment that comes from knowing you have contributed to something greater than yourself and for the specific purpose of educating or engaging the public. This is a step (and a big one) toward becoming influential and valuing one's own words as well as others'.

Reason #2: Understanding how the media works is empowering. Realizing that you have the ability to call information into question is a very important part of being a smart and discriminating consumer. Without this, you are more apt to believe anything you see or hear--especially if the information *seems* plausible. Being snowed is never a good feeling.

Reason #3: Being a leader is empowering. Whether as an editor or a contributor, leadership is a necessary skill to gathering important and meaningful news. Also, respect is often afforded those who aren't afraid to ask important questions.

Reason #4: Honing a craft is empowering. Becoming a better writer, speaker, artist, photographer, editor, etc. are all an essential part of being a valued member of the fourth estate. It also helps a little with the grades in other classes...

Reason #5: Student media expands horizons. Being a journalist or photographer helps you see the world differently and branch out in directions that you wouldn't necessarily otherwise.

The reasons for why scholastic journalism is a valuable (and arguably essential) practice are plentiful. I would challenge anyone to offer a reason it might not be.