- Being able to read doesn’t make you media literate
To be illiterate as you’d understand it means to be unable to read or write. So if you can read and write English, being able to read the newspapers would mean you’re media literate, right? That’s actually half-correct, having access to media (also meaning you have money to buy it!) like newspapers and being able to read it is part of the definition of being media literate, but it also means other things as well.
- Being critical of media is a large part of media literacy.
Sometimes you read the papers and go “Sure or not?” and that’s good, it’s processing information with healthy skepticism. However, in media studies, we take that skepticism and run really far with it – we question everything about a paper, from who owns the paper, to the journalist writing the article, and whether their claimed sources seem reliable or not.
This is especially important when we read news on the internet, because anyone can write and share “news” on the internet but not everyone can publish a paper or produce and broadcast a news channel. As covered in my post about identifying fake news, it could be reckless when we share fake news as if they’re true. Of course, the full blame is on the irresponsible people who made them, but we also have an obligation to find out if it’s true or not before we tell our friends all about it.
Reputation also matters greatly. Some newspapers have established themselves as cornerstones of great journalism, so we’d tend to trust them more than other newspapers or sites.
- Being aware of an article’s tone is also being critical!
What is the article leading you to believe? It’s not any different from reading between the lines when you read a book. If you read My Sister’s Keeper for example, it’s more than just fiction with all the drama and her classic twists, Jodi Picoult also draws to attention the moral and ethical issues about conceiving a donor baby.
So what does an article try to get you to do? What does the newspaper lead you to believe? The way they talk about important figures are carefully selected words, and they paint a picture. Speaking of, their choice of pictures are also really important! They take hundreds of pictures at press conferences, it’s not a coincidence that they stay away from those pictures of political figures with their eyes closed or mid-yawn. (Although Malaysiakini does do this on purpose, it’s really interesting!)
- Media refers to all types of medium – film, your beloved Korean dramas, songs, you name it.
Don’t underestimate Korean dramas – they seem fluffy-happy puppy-rainbows half the time, and mum, I know you skip past all the boring talk and skip right to the drama, the crying and screaming. But very often they do have very important messages in the dialogue which you might have missed!
‘Blackbird’ by The Beatles for example was written about racial tensions in the US in the late 60’s! In British slang, ‘bird’ refers to a girl, so the song could be interpreted to mean ‘Black girl’ in this iconic time during a civil rights struggle to desegregate.
As with all things, context is really important. Current events around the time of an article or a film or song’s release will sometimes lend more meaning to it. ‘Blackbird’ is an example of such!
Keep that healthy “Sure or not?” attitude when you read something and remember to ask yourself questions about the article. Assume there’s always ‘more’ to it. If your concerns can’t be answered to your satisfaction, then you might have a reason to be alarmed that what you’re reading might not be all that you think it is!
Also check out this post about identifying fake news on 5 Points or Less.
A more in-depth but textbook definition and explanation similar to the above points can be found here, a free resource courtesy of SUNY Cortland.