Media literacy has become an increasingly necessary skill as the dissemination of information has gone from basic print materials, radio, and limited television stations to a multitude of media outlets, such as the Internet, hundreds of news outlets, radio stations that are self-programed, and advertisements that follow each click of your keyboard. Most of these outlets operate in real-time. The need to analyze, evaluate, question, and verify information sources is imperative when even the most trusted information sources come under scrutiny as they release news, advertising promotions, and personal opinion at an alarming rate. In today’s media driven society, a Tweet can make or break a news story or political candidate in minutes by putting a positive or negative spin on a statement. Therefore, it is necessary to teach students and adults to analyze, evaluate, question, and apply knowledge from many sources using critical thinking skills. The need to verify information, to dissect advertising campaigns for bias, and to identify reliable sources is a skill to be honed starting with very young students.
As media professionals, from instructional technology teachers to social content directors for major corporations, address the idea of media literacy, they do so through different lenses but they all depend on the critical thinking skills of their audiences. The instructional technology teacher instills the need to analyze websites, advertisements, and shared information for truth and bias before students make decisions on how to use and disseminate the information. The social content director does much the same but with the bottom line of a large or small business on the line. Questions that companies ask their media specialist to address include: to whom should specific media be directed, how should it be displayed, when should potential customers be targeted? Think of the challenges that political campaigns face and how their media directors have to respond to information. They depend on the media literacy of the electorate to sift through ever increasing amounts of relevant and irrelevant media information. And, they have to find a way to appeal to an electorate that is multi-generational, socio-economically and educationally diverse.
Media literacy boils down to the evaluation, analysis, and verification of information using critical thinking skills.