I just returned from a fruitful regional meeting with media literacy practitioners in the Balkan region: the regional conference “Media literacy and educational needs of the journalists and the public” in Skopje, Macedonia (March 28th-29th).
I learnt about new media literacy education initiatives (mainly civil society ones) doing mainly training for teachers and youth and production of educational materials. Most of them have the same problem though: once funding cease, the program stops. So it is difficult to understand their impact at local or national level.
The lack of investment in feedback and evaluation and peer-learning among teachers and students could also be the cause for the lack in continuity. That is, besides no policy in the media literacy field and lack of financial support.
In my keynote presentation I talked about why #MediaLiteracyMatters and doing media education at grassroots level. The way we work at Mediawise.
I met this very motivated, self-taught language teacher from Montenegro, a source of inspiration for any teacher in the region who would like to do media education in the classroom.
The conference was organized within the regional project “South-East European Partnership for Media Development“, implemented by the Center for Independent Journalism from Romania in cooperation with eight media organizations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Bulgaria, with support from the European Union.
50 experts from the media sector, academia, civil society and representatives of institutions and international organizations in South-East Europe and Turkey attended the conference.
For more details about the media literacy field in the Balkans please see the Regional Report: Media Literacy and Education Needs of Journalists and the Public in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia
The research aims to provide an up-to-date, comparative environmental analysis of journalism education and media literacy programs available in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. It provides information on education needs in journalism and for the general public, as well as an overview of the environmental factors at the basis of media literacy.
Media literacy is often analyzed in two dimensions – individual competencies and environmental factors that can drive and affect individuals, media education and encourage or hold back the development of the individual competencies.
This research focuses of the environmental factors and targets to provide a comprehensive overview of issues, dynamics and drivers in each of the research countries.
Media landscape today is visual, multi platform, and requires new methods of gathering, analyzing big amounts of data, and delivering news and information. Despite the requirements posed by digital and mobile age, the media sector and its professional journalists, newcomers in the newsrooms and educators lag behind in realizing, preparing and aligning with the nowadays important multimedia and other digital storytelling skills.
Media industry and educators in the region do not manage to create structured and sustainable partnerships, to tackle the issues with the new knowledge and practical skills market requirements.
MEDIA LITERACY & PROFESSION VS. EDUCATION SYSTEMS
Media literacy is barely mentioned in country legislations and strategies. In all the researched countries, various laws and documents point to media literacy as it is, or in the form of digital literacy, information literacy etc., however, the issue with media literacy as part of education and knowledge of the general public is not approached in a systematic and structured manner in any of the countries in the region. There are sporadic efforts and isolated initiatives to introduce elements of media literacy education in schools, high schools and universities.
In all countries researched, education systems are not keeping up with the changes and technology advancements of the media industry. The most worrying trend is the intention and in some of the countries already the process of transforming journalism studies into communication studies, which is another step away from “producing” knowledgeable media professionals and journalists. Education systems in the region seem to aim at producing communicators, who may fit a wide range of positions, from journalists, to PRs, speakers, marketing professionals etc. Based on the number of people who enroll and graduate, and on the inability to save high-quality journalism education, the journalism degree is less valued. As a consequence, the overall quality of journalism deteriorates year after year.
A common issue throughout the region is that university and school educators and professors are rarely practitioners, which lowers the chance for students to learn real-world practice and professional tips. There are, however, numerous cases reported of established partnerships in terms of allowing practice in the media outlets and journalist guest-speakers tutoring students in universities.
Media outlets struggling with financial restrictions and low budgets, often complain about the low level of knowledge and understanding of journalism of the newcomers who graduated universities, and about their lack of practical skills. A degree in journalism is not a prerequisite for applying and finding a job as a journalist across the region, although there is no information in any of the research countries about a profile of competencies and skills required to apply for a job as a journalist.
Media owners/editors often faced with financial difficulties do not invest in life long learning and qualification improvement.
MEDIA LITERACY & PROFESSION VS. NGO SECTOR
In such complex environmental landscape, civil society organisations (CSOs) and donors are taking a key role in powering the discussion about media literacy, in promoting high-quality journalistics ethics and standards, in sourcing and teaching new knowledge and skills required by the industry.
Researches and studies on media literacy and media education are usually initiated and conducted by the NGO sector, or planned and executed as part of projects lead by CSOs and sponsored by donors.