Confession. During winter break, the kids and I were home from school and I spent an extreme amount of time online. “Going down the rabbit hole,” as my husband likes to call it. I was satisfying the FOMO (fear of missing out) monster, along with releasing that feel-good chemical, dopamine, that whispers “what else can I find online today? Any funny videos? Memes?” And the common thought, “How many Facebook likes did my photo received?” During this time, I noticed a lot of New Year’s resolutions posts--which included the usual suspects: weight loss, exercise, money management, and getting organized in 2018. I felt pressured to create my own list of resolutions for 2018. While many of us return to our old habits by the end of January, I am determined to create a list of achievable resolutions. Being a media literacy advocate, what better way to sharpen my skills than to make a media literacy resolution list?
1. Sourcing and Fact Checking
It is easy to look at a tweet or a blurb from a newscast and avoid getting into the nitty gritty of a topic. It may seem laborious or overwhelming to do a round of fact checking on a topic, however in the day of “fake news” or “alternative facts,” it will be important to routinely exercise my mental muscle, learn all of the facts, and venture outside my comfort zone. In order to better identify partial or untruths, I routinely use the following resources to fact check and source stories: FactCheck.org, NPR Politics Fact Check, Snopes and Propublica.
2. Diversify My Media.
For many of us, it’s easier to head straight to news sources who share our personal ideologies. We need to start asking how this behavior is educating or broadening our views? (Spoiler: it’s not!) As a media educator, I strive to be balanced in my consumption. If I have a balanced media diet, I will gain more insights and become a better informed citizen, educator, and have the ability to participate intelligently in discussions on various topics with my students and peers. I suggest adding diverse sources to all of your social media feeds. For example, like or follow pages for both the New York Times and the Conservative Review and then analyze how each covers the same event or story differently.
3. Practice Digital Citizenship Strategies.
Digital Citizenship covers a wide range of topics within media literacy such as internet safety, digital footprints, privacy, and copyright to name a few. My personal goal is to work on being aware of oversharing. Every thought and experience does not need to be shared, but if I do share, not everyone will agree and it could even lead to a heated debate. Additionally, I will ask before sharing and tagging folks on my social media accounts, especially if there are children in the photos. It’s always wise to have a clear understanding of what I can and cannot post of others. I use a Facebook setting which allows me to review tagged items before it is posted to my timeline--however, not everyone is aware of, or uses, this feature. If you are interested in using this strategy on your Facebook account go to Settings > Timeline and Tagging > Review and select “on” for “Review posts you are tagged in before the posts appears on your timeline.” You may also select “on” for tags.
The potential merger of Sinclair Broadcast Group purchasing Tribune Media has prompted a lot of concern from the public. The acquisition could result in a decrease in the choice of content for consumers in many states. Three local stations in St. Louis will be affected and as a media literate audience, we need to be aware of media ownership. At the moment, it appears the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will overturn its’ National TV Ownership Rules which states the following:
“The National TV Ownership rule does not limit the number of TV stations a single entity may own nationwide so long as the station group collectively reaches no more than 39 percent of all U.S. TV households.”
In St. Louis, this decision will result in Sinclair having a collective reach to approximately reach 72 percent of viewers. For more detail regarding this FCC’s ruling on the Sinclair Broadcast Group check out the following article by Don Corrigan: Local News, Fake News, No News – Read All About It!
As we turn the page on 2017, let’s be mindful of the media we consume. Take time for entertainment but if there are serious topics at hand, exercise due diligence and become better educated citizens. Going down the rabbit hole may benefit us a little more if we use media literacy tools to access, analyze, and evaluate the media we consume.
Happy New Year!
Marteana Davidson, President
Gateway Media Literacy Partners
“Media literacy seeks to empower citizens and transform their passive relationship to media into an active, critical engagement- capable of challenging the traditions and structures of a privatized, commercial media culture, and finding new avenues of citizen speech and discourse.”
(Source: Wally Bowen, 1996, Citizens for Media Literacy, Asheville, NC, U.S.A.)