Media Literacy as a Tool for Being Informed


(Posting on using media literacy to stay informed; fragment of an article; by one NEB)

To be able to select which programs—especially on TV—are worth watching and which are not, based on the quality of the programs and the propaganda behind the programming, what is needed on the part of the viewers is media literacy, which has critical thinking embedded in it.

Thoman asserts that media literacy is the ability to choose and select, the ability to challenge and question, the ability to be conscious about what is going on around us and not be passive and therefore, vulnerable.

He continues to say that television and mass media have become so ingrained in our cultural milieu that we should no longer view the task of media literacy as providing “protection” against unwanted messages. Our goal must be to help people become competent, critical and literate in all media forms so that they can control the interpretation of what they see or hear rather than letting the interpretation control them.

Citing some media literacy experts, Thoman identifies five ideas that the viewers should know about media messages as follows:

1. All media messages are “constructed”

Whatever we see in the media—including television—is creatively constructed by someone or a group of people wanting us to take it as real. Words, pictures or arrangements that may be rejected are not included. The opposites are incorporated.

2. Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules

Each form of media message has its own creative language to overwhelm the viewers. And the understanding towards this (grammar, syntax, and metaphor system of media language) enables us to appreciate and enjoy media experiences as well as helps us to be less vulnerable to manipulation.

3. Different people experience the same media message differently

Due to differences in age, upbringing, and education, there are no two people who interpret or understand the same media message the same way. These factors we have in ourselves will always help tell us whether to accept or reject the message.

4. Media are primarily businesses driven by a profit motive

Any program we watch on television is so constructed as to create an audience to see the products of the sponsor advertised in between the showing of the program. The joke saying “acara televisi di antara iklan (programming in between commercial break)” and not “iklan di antara acara televisi (commercial break in between programming) may after all be true.

5. Media have embedded values and points of view

All lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors portrayed in television programs have values embedded in them to be offered to the viewers. It is the critical thinking skill of being able to recognize and analyze the propaganda behind the program that will enable the viewers to accept or reject the message.

There you have it; from now on, you can count on media literacy to keep yourself from not being misled, but instead, informed all the time 🙂

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