Free Press: Media Reform Network

— returning real content to journalism and expanding media literacy — 

Wonder what’s happened to the news? Why TV screens and radio airwaves are full of celebrities and their fashionable lives but you don’t hear a sensible discussion about ways to create jobs, restore the economy, rein in Wall Street speculators, improve educational opportunities and outcomes, or the impact on our children’s future of the mandated testing policy in the No Child Left Behind Act?

Wonder why more of us turn to international sources such as the BBC to find out what’s going on inside the government of the United States? Why fewer and fewer corporations own more and more media outlets (radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, books, music, concerts, and maybe even the Internet)? Why your local radio station disappeared into a sea of automated programming or your hometown newspaper disappeared altogether?

Well, you’re not alone. More of us are talking about it — and now, more people are doing something about it. In an unprecedented show of national concern, some 2.5 million Americans expressed their disapproval of the move toward media consolidation to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) following their June 2, 2003 decision to expand the ownership rules and allow the handful of existing media conglomerates to own even more properties. Politicians as diverse as Trent Lott of Mississippi, Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota spoke out against the monopoly of information.

Clear Channel, now the owner of more than 1400 radio stations and other media companies nationwide, is only one example of how media concentration shuts out local information. You’ve heard the story of the chlorine gas spill in Minot, North Dakota? Well, neither did the local residents. Perhaps that’s because Clear Channel owns the majority of radio stations in town — but they’re automated, meaning that the music and “talk” comes from some pre-packaged faraway source. The only real person in the area is a technician who monitors the machinery, and that person is not always in the building. Which is why the citizens of Minot couldn’t get any information about the chlorine gas leak in their own city in time to protect themselves. Is this really what we want for our communities?

Free Press is a national organization intent on increasing our participation in democracy and in the public policy debates about the media and its value to participatory governance. They sponsored the first of many National Conferences on Media Reform in Madison, Wisconsin (November 7-9, 2003), where veteran journalist Bill Moyers, a roster of national dignitaries, and two FCC Commissioners gave important speeches.

Free Press also joins the media literacy effort with groups including Smart Media Education from the Action Coalition for Media Education, Democracy Now!, and others, in helping us all learn how to watch a TV program or film, how to read the underlying messages in advertising, how to find child-friendly, family-friendly, and just plain people-friendly media fare on any platform or device, and how to ensure a wide range of thought and opinion in newspapers, radio/television broadcasting, online/social media, and access to information technology.

The conversation about diversity of media ownership is crucial to the health of our democracy. When fewer outlets are available, fewer opinions — regardless of their message — are expressed, and that’s not good for any of us. A recent study of young people, eligible to vote for the first time, found that many did not vote because they said they didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision. And still the big media giants gobble each other up, often with the blessing of the FCC.

In a democracy, it’s not important that everyone holds the same opinion (in fact, that’s extremely counter-productive); it is important that each of us has the information to hold an informed opinion and to respect the opinions of others (even when we don’t agree with them) as we participate in the community dialogue that makes our system work. We can’t do that if we don’t have access to information in the first place.

Everything we do is now shaped by some form of media. Keeping ourselves involved and informed is a critical responsibility of citizens in a democracy, and all of us need to be sure we can — and do — get in the game.

Oh, by the way…
The evening of November 8, 2003, also offered a spectacular lunar eclipse, clearly visible to most in the Northern Hemisphere of the United States. If you didn’t stand outside and gaze appreciatively during its approximately 7:06-7:36pm totality, check out MrEclipse.com and the NASA Eclipse website, both products of long-time eclipse guru Fred Espanek. He offers tips for how to photograph eclipses and information on the ones that will appear in coming years. Then, search Space.com for ‘eclipse’ to see more fantastic images.

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos

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Center for Media Literacy

— practical resources for individuals, educators, parents, and caregivers of children
to help us cope with living in a global media culture — 

Although life may have been much simpler before the invention of any sort of electronic media, humans have always used multiple forms of communication — from hand signs to verbal noises to scratches and markings on temporary or permanent surfaces. By now, most communication has gone electronic, but its effectiveness still depends on sender and receiver holding some common understanding of both message and medium used for the process.

That’s where ‘media literacy’ comes in. Just as we acknowledge the value of basic literacy (reading, writing, calculation) to our ability to function effectively in the world, we now need to better recognize the importance of understanding how various media affect the communication process and outcomes we strive for every day.

As a writer, photographer, living-room musician, and producer of all manner of media — print, electronic, written, visual, aural, transitory, permanent — media literacy is a subject near and dear to my heart. In one of my earliest professional experiences, I worked with a small, independent, nonprofit agency to support the development of their middle school and high school curriculum known as “Media Now!”

With this uniquely designed collection of educational activities, students learned how to tell a story and deliver a message by creating television programs (now called ‘videos’), films, and photographic essays. As students worked their way through the activity packages and discovered how the media worked from the inside out, they were better able to distinguish fact from fiction, manipulation from useful information. Today, we live in a global media culture, and now, every citizen of the world needs such skills. The school classroom, as always, is a great place to start learning.

The Center for Media Literacy was established in 1989 by a small group of dedicated souls located in metropolitan Los Angeles, California (USA) as an independent resource for individuals, educators, parents, and caregivers of children. As the website explains:

“CML works to help citizens, especially the young, develop critical thinking and media production skills needed to live fully in the 21st century media culture.”

They describe “a new vision of literacy for the 21st Century: the ability to communicate competently in all media forms, print and electronic, as well as to access, understand, analyze, and evaluate the powerful images, words, and sounds that make up our contemporary mass media culture. Indeed, we believe these skills of media literacy are essential for both children and adults as individuals and as citizens of a democratic society.”

CML’s MediaLit Kit™ identifies the ‘five core concepts’ of media literacy as:

  • All media messages are constructed
  • Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules
  • Different people experience the same media message differently
  • Media have embedded values and points of view
  • Media messages are constructed to gain profit and/or power

When we, as consumers of media, understand the rules of the language used to create the messages, we become truly literate global citizens who can be full participants in the societies where we live.

Copyright ©2013 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos

The Persuaders

— what to make of today’s marketing, advertising, and media blitz? —

It’s been a while since PBS’ Frontline series broadcast The Persuaders, a report about “the influence of new marketing techniques on the democratic process,” but the content remains as relevant as ever.

As electronic media options proliferate, audiences fragment. That brings both challenge and opportunity not only to anyone with a message to share but also to everyone within earshot, sight lines, or contact with a television, iPod, DVD player, digital camera, computer, smartphone, satellite dish, whatever. The permutations seem endless.

What happens to society, relationships, dialogue — even a sense of self, when every interaction is considered a transaction and every item in the world is plastered with a logo? What happens to us when individuals are encouraged to become their own “brand” and market, promote, or publicize any- and everything they do?

That’s part of what Frontline‘s producers investigate and share in The Persuaders. By understanding how market research aims to find out more about each of us and then targets the messages for products and services accordingly, the better we are able to sort out the useful and energizing from the seductive and harmful.

As with most Frontline programs, the entire episode can be viewed online at PBS. (This kind of streaming video works best with a high-speed or broadband connection.)

But even if your Internet connection is slow or you don’t want to spend an hour and a half online, check out The Persuaders website for additional information and readable sections of the program.

As always, the website for PBS programs include a teacher’s guide, links and readings, interviews, analysis, discussion groups, and extensive related resources.

Copyright ©2013 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos

Coping with the Code

Ugh. Tech stuff. Is that really necessary if you just want to communicate better?

Yup.

Why? Because, beyond your words, it’s the code behind your particular flavor of digital media — website, blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, YouTube video, Flickr photo stash, whatever — that stands between you and your audience/customer/client. It’s the code that affects the appearance of your message, all the way from what it looks like on various screens to whether it actually shows up when and where it’s supposed to. Continue reading