“Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject, so you know you are getting the best possible information.” – Michael Scott, The Office
Leave it to the World’s Best Boss to put it into terms we can all understand. With people posting, tweeting and blogging on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other social media and websites every day, it is getting more difficult to determine what is fact and what is fiction.
That difficulty means we need to be familiar with all sorts of different media formats. Media literacy truly is a 21st Century survival skill. If you don’t know what @ is or # is, you might be coming illiterate. And in a day and age in which popularity is quantifiable now with followers on Instagram and Twitter, adults not only have to understand social media and media literacy, we need to be present on these mediums in order to model appropriate behavior. In fact, we no longer have a choice on whether we do social media–the question is how well we do it.
Dan Reimold, Ph.D. and college journalism scholar, said we are currently in the age of journalism brushfire in which the old is burning down and the new is popping up all over the place. Well, with that explosion of information and internet traffic, too few youngsters are learning good media literacy. Mediaconsumption and exposure is now 24-7, and we must educate students. We can’t change the message and sender, so we must educate the receiver.
For students, the best place for that participation and education comes in the form of scholastic
journalism. There is no better place for a high school student to be than in his or her high school’s
newspaper, yearbook or broadcast program. My colleagues in the Journalism Education Association and I believe journalism is the 21st Century English. When educators talk about how they want engaged students to collaborate, communicate, create with creativity and critically think, they are describing journalism. It is the ultimate outcome-based academic experience.
Journalism is unlike any other class. It is an authentic learning experience in which students are producing a product for a large audience. Their work is out there for everyone to see, not just the teacher. In essence, students are running a small business and learning real-world skills which apply to every area of study. The pride and empowerment in that process is magical, and the education in the process is invaluable.
A piece of that process is media literacy. There are currently more choices to get information than ever before. But unless you make a conscious effort to diversify your feeds, what you see in your media stream is often a reflection, even amplification, of what you already believe. Journalism students are learning to collect all ideas and opinions, and validate sources–not just the ones they agree with.
Journalism students are taught to look out a window and not stare into a mirror. Scholastic journalism is critical thinking paired with collaboration. We’re creating young adults who honor
the First Amendment and value truth and accuracy. In essence, we’re creating people who can do just
about anything including sifting through the fact and fiction of Michael Scott’s aforementioned media
Mitch Eden advises student media at Kirkwood High School in Kirkwood, MO, including The Kirkwood Call newspaper, TheKirkwoodCall.com, GMLP ‘s 2012 Charles Klotzer Media Literacy Award Honoree in the institution category, and thePioneer yearbook. During his 18 years advising, his students have earned national recognition but, more importantly, have learned to practice scholastic journalism with empathy and passion. He was named Society of Professional Journalists 2011-12 Distinguished Teaching in Journalism Award winner. He serves the Journalism Education Association secretary and is a JEA Master Journalism Educator.