“Journalism programs should be in the business of mediaÂ literacy,Â not just training journalists. That should be a campus-wide goal that engages majors from every department.”
Klein,Â a journalism professor at George Mason University,Â Â suggested this effortÂ would helpÂ college students become better citizens andÂ better enable themÂ to think for themselves (“There’s a concept for you!” he quips).
All well and good but let me add some additional, hard-nosed reasons why this campus-wide media literacy effort makes institutional sense.Â Journalism programs cannot keep training majors for evaporating mass media jobs. Meanwhile with the proliferation of media — desktop publishing,Â video and audio, web publishing — many people willÂ dabbleÂ in media for professional, political orÂ artististic reasons.
In a network world, media literacyÂ equatesÂ toÂ business and professional literacy. HereÂ I meanÂ more thanÂ the sensible consumption ofÂ news as suggested above. On the flip side it will be vital for anyone withÂ a missionÂ — building a company, a movement, aÂ scientific or cultural consensus,Â or any cooperative human endeavor — to learn how to tell stories.Â Is that not one lesson of theÂ Bible that, with no intention at all of beingÂ profane,Â applies equally toÂ Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book?
How do we define journalism? Surely it is more thanÂ theÂ work done by the employees ofÂ major media organizations, though one would hope their work would offer the best examples. Let’s brand journalism more broadlyÂ as theÂ disciplineÂ that sticks toÂ the facts.Â Â JournalistsÂ believe thatÂ it is possible and desirable to fairly distill the essence ofÂ any situation; and they try to Â present stories in such a way asÂ toÂ help people makeÂ up their own minds.Â
ItÂ makes sense to teach every student a bit of media literacy. And a bitÂ of journalism.Â They’re likely to need both to succeed.
(I found the above graphic by searching for an image under the word “literacy.” Was that by design? That would be my guess because the Information Literacy Project isÂ a wealth of presentations, course outlines and other aides to help teachers think about how to foster skepticism, awareness and rational thinkingÂ — again, what a concept!)