My Students’ Blog

Navigating Media

By Warren Nelson

You’re an adult now, and it’s time to do adult things, such as voting. When you reach the old age of 18, you finally get the title of “adult.” Although you don’t get to drink or rent a car, and you probably have bad credit, you do get a say in politics. 

When coming of age, voting is a big deal, and you have to decide which candidates to support in an election. Whomever or whatever you support with your vote, it’s always great to know information before you vote. A good way to do this is through media, whether it be through your phone or even something as simple as a newspaper. But, being able to determine if the source is credible can be difficult. A good skill that everyone needs is media literacy.

Now, what exactly is media literacy? Well, if you’re already an expert, maybe you will learn some new things. The first thing we need to go over is the expert definition by medialiteracynow.org. 

“Media literacy is a set of skills that helps people not just use, but analyze the content of media messages that they receive and that they send. Media literacy is the ability to decode media messages (including the systems in which they exist), assess the influence of those messages on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and create media thoughtfully and conscientiously.” If you click here, it will bring you to a company all about informing children and adults on media literacy. There is a really short and entertaining video that does a great job explaining it. 

When I think of media, my mind goes straight to social media (e.g. Facebook, Tiktok, Twitter, etc.), but it is actually so much more. People spend their time reading, viewing, and experiencing a vast variety of media content. They include television, radio, web, and printed news programs, online news, commercials, marketing messages, video games, music streaming apps, online video streaming companies, and social media posts. ​​The average U.S. citizen spends 721 minutes per day with media. The actual amount varies, but most experts believe that the typical individual sees thousands of advertisements every day.

In today’s world, it is extremely important to be well-versed in media literacy. You might be telling yourself right now that you don’t need media literacy or that it is a dumb thing. Let me tell you that it is definitely needed. You might not know, but I guarantee that you have been manipulated by some sort of media. Nothing can escape exaggeration, distortion, falsification, and simplicity in today’s blog and web-based media cycle.

First and foremost, media literacy assists people in becoming more informed media consumers as well as responsible media creators.

Media is under fire from all sides, with dishonest sources, unreasonable deadlines, page quotas, false information, greedy publishers, bad training, audience demands, and so much more. Whether you’re on the Huffington Post, CNN, or a little blog, these incentives are real. They distort everything you read on the internet. From bloggers to nonprofits to marketers to the New York Times itself, everyone is playing. The temptation of playing you for clicks is too strong to resist. When everyone is playing the same game, it’s difficult to tell the difference between the fact and the false. If you’re interested in learning more about the tricks these companies use to manipulate, Forbes Magazine has an article about this from an ex media manipulator.

When I bring up the word “Today,” I’m meaning the mess of the world right now; from the mess of politics, to the spread of misinformation about Covid-19. Apps like Facebook and Twitter, and news sites like CNN and FOX News have a high number of traffic making it easy for misinformation to surface and spread with shares. If you are curious about numbers and people who believe and disbelieve facts about Covid and how politics and media sites play into it, KFF has a lot of information and numbers on it.

If you are like most people, Covid-19 is something that you don’t know much about. However, in an exclusive interview I did with engineer Denise Weise, she explains and gives tips on how she was able to learn the facts about Covid-19 and avoid the opinions/false statements. When researching:

  •  When looking for credible sources  she looked for sources she had known in the past to be credible, such as the Mayo Clinic, UW Medicine, and other medical centers, and compared them to what the government sites were saying.
  • The number one thing she looked out for in determining whether a source was credible or not was Does it make sense? Are multiple credible sources providing the same info?
  •  Media sites she would not recommend. Clearly don’t use social media as your news source. She recommends finding credible sources and using multiple sources.
  • When I asked her If a person or student was looking for more information on healthcare related subjects, what advice would you give them? She said, “I look at long existing medical research facilities such as the UW Medicine, the Mayo Clinic, and others that have history, and research published in recognized medical journals, or other university research facilities.” 

People gain from media literacy in a variety of ways. First and foremost, media literacy assists people in becoming more informed media consumers as well as responsible media creators. In a similar vein, teaching media literacy encourages people to think critically. This kind of thinking can become second nature over time, which will benefit them in a variety of ways as they get older. Media literacy will continue to be important in developing a new generation capable of maintaining critical thinking abilities in the face of a media storm.

I have found some additional resources. Anyone eager to learn more should check these out:

More Info:

Introduction to Media Literacy: Crash Course Media Literacy #1

How to Find Reliable Sources and Spot Misinformation

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