Last week I hosted the International Association of Media Education webinar, a very lively and interesting discussion with prof. David Buckingham and Romanian journalist Tudor Mușat about the journalists’ involvement in media education. The topic has become even more central to the idea of media critical learning now that disinformation is of concern for so many voices in the public sphere, especially institutional ones.
One-hour webinar was not enough to cover for so many other facets of the subject, such as useful working methods, financial and policy support, but it was indeed a good starting point for other future discussions.
I hope the community of media educators worldwide will find some good ideas and comments to reflect upon, that both my guests and people attending the webinar (like prof. Renee Hobbs) expressed during our discussion. Have a look at some of the main ideas that emerged and/or watch the online broadcast of our webinar.
Guests: David Buckingham, Professor of Media and Communications at Loughborough University and Tudor Mușat, Romanian broadcast journalist. Moderator: Nicoleta Fotiade, Media Literacy Educator in Romania and IAME co-funder
Please check out the webinar invitation for additional information about the webinar guests and organisational details.
Journalism is perceived to produce more credible information that the media consumer could trust.
We need credible journalism but the question remains how far our journalists today are living up to that function of journalism.
Journalism finds itself in an economic crisis today, one of the reasons why its credibility got eroded.
The largest part of a journalist’s activity nowadays is to be a fact-checker rather than a reporter and news gatherer. (Tudor Mușat, RO)
Journalists should be involved in media education but it depends on what terms. Journalism has an educative function. As educators we should be working with media professionals. But, historically, there are some examples of ways in which I would rather this wasn’t done. In Europe many of these newspapers organizations in education were set up primarily in order to build what they saw as a declining audience. The idea was that if journalists went to school that would encourage young people to read and to buy newspapers. If media education is seen as a form of audience building then I have a problem with that. (David Buckingham, UK)
In the current context, we have another kind of problem. Established media are now on the defensive. More and more established news organizations are getting involved in media education, doing something they call news literacy. Very often what they tend to do is to use an us and them discourse with which they criticize the “bad people doing bad things on social media” (them) and encourage people to learn to trust ‘us’. While media education is really about critical thinking. What we want is to be critical of media. If media education is seen as a kind of a public relations or audience building this actually can undermine the action. If journalists go to schools telling everybody how wonderful they are, if the aim is public relations, then we have a problem. (David Buckingham, UK)
Educators should try to understand why journalists want to get involved and how they can encourage a critical approach. (David Buckingham, UK)
Journalists mostly do not understand how education works pedagogically and practically.
Teachers have things to learn from the journalists and journalists have things to learn from teachers. They should work in a partnership.
News literacy is a marketing effort that idealizes journalism in ways that distort the paradoxes and challenges of the profession. (Renee Hobbs, US)
When journalists come into the classroom, there is an opportunity to answer students’ questions, but there is a complex power dynamic that inevitably positions the journalist as the expert. (Renee Hobbs, US)
Seminars, conferences, lectures and workshops are the main forms of intervention that journalists use to get involved in media literacy actions, according to a 2019 study among journalists in EU. Other more relevant ways to get involved, as Wonsuk Choi from Watchdog Asia proposed, would be to start talking to the students about “what news is?” and expand the discussion and other working methods from there.
How to make news relevant to the young people’s daily life is a good idea to think about and introduce it in the media education of young people. A challenge for journalists but also for teachers. A pedagogical challenge to make the learning more relevant to the young people’s media consumption.
Journalists may not perceive themselves as media educators when going in the classroom but they sure promote their actions as media education.
Media education is a lifelong learning process through which we develop critical understanding of the media and their social, cultural, political, economic and personal implications. We also learn to become creative and responsible media users. Media education does not study only journalistic content, but journalistic content is an important part of the media education study.
From an educator point of view, educators should guide the involvement of journalists – invite and guide their input, which can be used as a tool in teaching and learning. This could be a useful expert view and shared experience to students, and definitely is needed for the journalist to offer students a hands on experience so they get to understand what it means to create content and all the implications around it. (Ana Maria Huluban, RO)
The crucial issue in media education is the issue of trust, skepticism, cynicism. How we identify trust is an important issue. The kind of superficial cynicism (e.g. not to trust certain journalists or news organization) is not something that we want to encourage in media education.
For media educators the main challenge has always been (or should be) how to fine tune the line in between cynicism and critical thinking.
I am willing to be vulnerable in front of students when I want us to discuss “trust” and to help them think critically about what trust means. I use myself as an example and ask students why they think I don’t teach every chapter of a textbook. E.g. Why do the trust my choices, or do they trust my choices, etc. It takes awhile but we finally circle around to news. (Carol Cooper, US)
Most of the journalists’ media literacy actions are intended towards high school students, sometimes, to university students. However news is not that interesting for this target group. Journalists (like Tudor) noticed that the high school students are not interested in news, do not know the difference between public interest news and other soft news.
The problem of how to engage young people in the news literacy actions may originate in the fact that they do not care about politics and news, it is boring, they usually say ‘it is not for us’, young people think their opinion does not matter.
Media literacy could reach parents and adults if they worked in collaboration with the business community. Some programs in US have offered ML as workforce development by focusing on ‘media and family’ issue (Renee Hobbs, US)
Nicoleta Fotiade is President and Co-founder of Mediawise Society. She is a media literacy educator, researcher and advocate in the media and communication field for more than 15 years. She has a keen interest in empowering educators and students to have a deep critical understanding of how media work and their impact on everyday life.
Nicoleta also teaches media education to final year BA students at the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences at the University of Bucharest. She is an active member and contributor to international and regional associations (co-founder of IAME – International Association for Media Education). She is the author and co-author of two media literacy textbooks, more than 20 media research studies and several other education materials for teachers and students.
Nicoleta holds a Master's degree in Communication from the University of Westminster in London, UK and she earned her Bachelor's degree in Journalism at the Superior School of Journalism in Bucharest.