Why Media Literacy Is Important in Today's Society

In this world of “fake news” and media conglomerates, the average person is probably not educated on how they should digest their media. This causes society to be uneducated and close-minded about the things going on in the world. Here are some important things to know in order to better understand your media content.

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First of all, what is media literacy? Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of mediums. Media companies create content that they know are deceiving the average viewer. That is why it is important to be able to sift through all the content you receive in order to get real news.

One important thing to know is that there are 6 companies, often referred to as “the big 6,” that own and control nearly all of the media in this country, including newspapers, television networks, film industries, magazines, social media, you name it!

(you can see this full graphic with a lot more information at http://www.morriscreative.com/6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america/ )

This is important to know because, as their audience, you have to wonder if the biases in certain news organizations come from restrictions from their parent company. Why is MSNBC so liberal while FOX is so conservative? Are the reporters forced to say certain things and keep quiet about other things? Then that isn’t real journalism if they are holding facts from the public. And do these “big 6” companies secretly work together in order to dominate certain markets of the industry? Even if we don’t know these answers, it is still important to think about when you are analyzing your news. You might think you are getting diverse points of view, but they might not be as diverse as you think.

Especially when you’re watching television news, it is important to know that the people on the screen are not always professional journalists. Big networks like CNN and FOX news use entertainment in order to retain viewers. They are businesses who gain money from their popularity and number of viewers. The people on screen are often just actors who are being told what to say, and they often don’t say what they really believe. When one of the news stations hosts a debate to pretend to show both sides of an argument, they usually hire one or two people to oppose the view they favor and tell them exactly what to say anyway. This is seen a lot during presidential elections. For example, FOX would hire one Clinton supporter and then hire two or three Trump supporters. Then they would tell them all what they can say and what they can’t say, making sure that the conversation stays in favor of Trump.

Why do they do this? Because FOX knows their audience is more Republican and people like to watch things that reaffirm their beliefs. No one wants to listen to someone tell them their beliefs are wrong, they would just change the channel. And all news networks do this, just just the ones mentioned. Even newspapers aim their articles to please their target audience.

(Even the subtitle “Tucker takes on Democratic congressman” poses the debate as a battle with Tucker as the hero. They don’t even mention what they are debating about. See full video at FOX News: http://insider.foxnews.com/2018/01/30/tucker-carlson-debate-tim-ryan-open-seat-state-union-deportee )

Real news is meant to be unbiased and show both sides of an argument, including all facts. This is very difficult to come by in modern day. One way to help sift through this is knowing the difference between real news anchors and commentators. Commentators are a majority of what you see on your tv screen. They fill up air time, entertaining the viewers, and sharing their thoughts and opinions on different subjects. Real journalism is what you rarely see, and is often only showed on screen when a huge accident or crime has occurred and the news anchors are delivering just the facts to the audience. News companies should be giving out just facts and letting the public come to their own conclusion about it, but that is not what we see in our media.

Journalism is an important and vital industry in this country. The freedom of press was protected by the First Amendment for a reason. It was meant to be part of our country’s checks and balances system in order to keep the government uncorrupt. The public has a right to know this information. Unfortunately, the public’s trust in the media is becoming lower than ever before. Why is this? A lot of this is because of the different variations of the same story by different news sources; people don’t know who to trust. This also comes from the “fake news” phenomenon that we have seen in recent years.

Social media platforms are one of the main causes of “fake news.” Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are made so that anyone can post and share whatever they want. Is it their job to delete news articles that are not true? They believe that it is not their place to interfere. If people want to post satirical or completely made-up news articles, that is one’s personal choice. People love The Onion articles, a fake news site, because of the comedy. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of “fake news” comes from. Many people believe articles that are either completely false or have no real journalistic reporting or facts to back them up. People also get opinion pieces confused with real news. This creates a world of news where no one knows who to trust.

(This is an example of how people actually believe articles that are completely made-up. You may think that you can spot the fake news, but some are harder to identify than you think.)

Besides just thinking of media as news networks, it is also important to be media literate about things like television shows, movies, magazines, and other entertainment. These types of media draw out emotional responses that affect the way we think or believe without us even realizing it. We are often influenced by what is called “romantic realism.” Romantic realism is when seemingly real life situations are glorified and portrayed better than they actually are. Like when a commercial shows sizzling and perfectly cooked food when in reality it does not look or taste like that, but you still crave the food you see. (Learn more about the psychology behind this here). You should recognize that product placement is also a huge marketing tactic by companies. Seeing your favorite TV character drink a Pepsi can influence you more than you think.

Entertainment media can also influence societal norms a lot. For example, traditional Disney movies showed princesses that need to be rescued by the princes. The Little Mermaid is one of the most popular and it promotes that women need to change themselves in order to get the man. This has created an ideal for little girls around the country. More adult shows often show women as needy and the strong man has to save them. Latina women are often portrayed as sexual objects and unimportant roles in shows and movies. This affects how society views and treats women. Why is this? Well there are many reasons why this is. One is that these stories are what sells. Big companies don’t want to take a risk on showing relationships that people don’t agree with because they are focused on the money. It is also important to recognize that men overwhelmingly dominate the entertainment industry. The writers and directors are men who then set the tone for what the “norm” is in society.

Overall, knowing where your media content is coming from is vital in understanding what’s happening in the world. If you try to read the same articles from different news companies, then you’re already making progress. Just being educated about your news source and identifying the bias.