What is Media Literacy?

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“Whoever controls the media controls the mind”. 


According to the 1992 Aspen Media Literacy Leadership Institute, media literacy is simply; “…the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms”.


Any person living in today’s American society is relentlessly flooded with media: commercial ads, music, film, television, and more. Images explode from billboards, reader boards, road signs, and signs on buildings as you drive down main street USA. Advertisements in magazines and in newspapers flash from each page. Then there is the internet—media maelstrom. You can’t get away from the media. For example if you open the Yahoo page you might see on each side of the screen product advertisements. Maybe something for dieting or a new way to access movies on line on one side and the other might contain the hottest, hippest clothing store. In the middle of the advertisements is a plethora of ‘news stories’ most of which are about the current relationship status of film and TV stars. Making the term ‘news’ questionable. And who decides what we need to see, who creates this ‘news’ and media of which we are inundated.

There are six major owners of media. Until recently there were only five; the newest addition is Vivendi Universal. Founded in 2002 Vivendi is already in league with such corporations as News Corp, Viacom, AOL/Time Warner, Disney and Bertelsmann.  These 6 corporations control almost everything we see and hear.  Why does this matter? Jim Morrison once said “Whoever controls the media controls the mind”.  You might think this is a rash statement; you may even be shaking your head at me.  Think about this, the more forms of media and the more companies one corporation owns means that there is less creativity and fewer opinions going into what is being presented for our consumption. It is as if to say six people decide what is good, what we should see, what we should hear and what we need to purchase (that last one is a blog in itself to be attacked at a later date).

I certainly do not profess to say that we need to stop consuming media. I personally love media, TV, films, and music. I would even go as far as to say there are some commercials that I just love. I smile each time the young lady holds up the safe driver check and tells the young man who thinks men are better drivers than women to silence himself.

This is where the ability to access, analyze, evaluate the media and its forms that we consume comes in handy and is important. When consuming media ask yourself 5 simple questions: 1. Who created this message? 2. What techniques have been use to attract my attention? 3. How might people understand this message differently than I do? 4. What values, lifestyles and points of view are presented in or omitted from this message? 5. Why is this message being sent?

Media literacy is a term that really isn’t out there that much, but it is something that this blogger feels is should be in every household, on each person lips and in their minds. We need to understand the images that are presented before as well as the ideas.

Let me leave you with the words of Malcolm X. “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses”.