Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Morals of Journalism

When considering our choices as purveyors (and now civic participants) in the media, it's hard to be too careful about believing what we read/see and why. It would be fantastic if I could be able to switch on my TV or check my news feed and just take for granted that everything on there was unquestionably accurate and (more importantly) relevant.

Journalism isn't just about being that romantic ideal of distributing the "facts" of the situation. Too often, I have felt that the media has started to get so soft and pander so much to mainstream popular culture (i.e. birth certificates, royal weddings) that a great deal about what is important and of grave concern to our everyday lives is lost in the wash of senseless journalism that seems to be getting more and more pervasive.

I don't mean to sound like one of those doddering old biddies who insists that things just aren't the way they used to be (because the way it used to be wasn't so awesome either!) but I think there needs to be a reckoning in the world of tabloid lust and popular bubblegum rhetoric.

A parent's job is to guide their offspring in the morals and values that allow them to function within the laws and social norms of society. Without this, William Golding offers a dire perspective on "kids gone wild" when there is a loss of formative guidance. In a way, we, as a society, are the parents of the media. We created it, and we have a responsibility to guide it. If we demand crap, that's what we'll get. If we explain to our offspring that we don't appreciate these distractions into irrelevant and sometimes damaging forays of journalistic nonsense, there might be a move toward more positive, helpful and moral journalistic practices.

However, if we--as parents--forget our own morals and values, how can we be good parents to the media? We have a responsibility to demand good journalistic practices, but first we have to know what they actually are.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why Can't the Students Learn to Blog?

There are many reasons to be skeptical of electronic media...actually, any media these days. The question is asked over and over: how do we know what you're saying/writing/posting is true? The definition of the word "true" is even called into question...

For our students, knowing how to answer these questions is getting more and more difficult. With lines of legitimacy becoming blurred with every new source of information, navigating the media is increasingly frustrating.

Teaching students first and foremost to ask questions is a good line of defense. It's classic, and won't be outdated with the next upgrade. Having the sense to check into any source of information will help students understand how we are capable of manipulating as well as educating each other and not be taken advantage of when sources choose to go the way of the former.

The next step is to teach students the benefit of sharing information that is properly researched, challenges inaccuracy, and is in the best interest (in terms of educating) of the general public.

Nobody likes to be taken for a ride. If students understand and appreciate the shame of feeling duped by a faulty source, it might drive home the importance of making sure we don't perpetuate bad habits by being irresponsible journalists ourselves.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Media Literacy: The Wave of the Future!

I love cheesy '80s references as much as the next person, but throwbacks remind us sometimes about how we have grown, how our perceptions have changed, and how we should be careful to learn from rather than forget from where we've come.

As a proponent of 21st Century Skills (regardless of how I feel about cliche'd scholastic movements), I can't help but think the only thing that will save humanity from falling into a deep abyss of ignorance is for ALL of us (yes...not just as a nation but as a WORLD) to start appreciating the importance of media literacy in an age where basic literacy is still a struggle.

There are obvious reasons for why new movements in citizen journalism and scholastic media are more relevant than ever, and the main ones involve the growing number of pseudo-news outlets, independent journalists and the general perception that if it's "out there" that it must be true. A media ignorant individual is easy prey for someone or some group wishing to instill feelings of fear, bigotry, and a variety of other unsavory qualities that propaganda is most notably infamous for.

The solution? I propose the addition of media literacy programming in schools that cross all areas of the curriculum including non-humanities areas such as math and science (it's not always just "words"...numbers lie, too!). If we are to be a productive democracy, and if our friends in emerging democracies are to succeed, getting a firm grasp of what is truly going on around us is crucial. Deception is how people are controlled.