Adventures in Media Literacy

What is Media Literacy?

Simply stated, media literacy is the ability to analyze and produce media messages. This is important, since much of the information we receive about our world is constructed by advertisers, news and entertainment organizations using techniques that are frequently misleading. By thinking critically about what we view on TV, the internet and video games, we can become aware of some of the hidden messages and misrepresentations that are designed to influence how we think, feel and act.

Some examples of why media literacy is important in our community:

A popular music video shows prostitutes and their employers in a positive fashion. The audience is treated to a catchy melody as they watch men and women making business interactions seem sexy and cool. The stereotype images of African Americans in the video misrepresents people of color, promotes illegal, unhealthy activities and shows disregard for the true effects of prostitution on a community such as exploitation of young girls.

Media literacy asks questions: Who makes these music videos? Who is the audience? What are the underlying messages?

Finding a positive news story about Roxbury in the Boston press is difficult. The majority of news stories done on Roxbury, where a majority of its citizens are African-American, are negative—usually about gang violence. This disproportionate coverage characterizes an entire community and influences how government policy makers, police and others view the community.

Again, media literacy asks: How do repeated stories about violence create a misperception about a community? Does news media have a responsibility to balance they kinds of stories they present, or should they do only stories that appear to increase ratings?

By using critical thinking and understanding how media works, we can begin to think differently about how we can promote more positive and accurate messages about who we are as a community.

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