No media savvy

2013-07-31 00:00

IAM one of a fortunate few who have direct involvement with the media through my position as the news editor at our university’s student newspaper.

At least I know what goes into the making of a newspaper. I make student journalists feel the heat of a newsroom. I somehow control, together with my colleagues, what fellow students read, given the editorial jurisdiction.

This reference is to indicate that there are people who dictate to us what is news. There are people who plan an advert to drive us to a specified commercial snare.

So, if we don’t have the skills needed to understand the motives of every news article, video, radio broadcast and advertisement, we are vulnerable as citizens.

The evolution in the media industry from a one-way to an interactive exercise has improved the quality of news and the speed with which news and other media messages are accessed by the public.

The advent of Web 2.0, with its features of interactivity, compressibility and ability to be manipulated, enabled everyone not only to be a consumer of media broadcasts, but also a producer.

Twitter, for example, makes everyone a journalist. Facebook allows everyone to reach thousands of people with a single post. BBM and Whatsapp messages are forwarded in great numbers within the blink of an eye.

But how educated are we about these platforms?

Do we ever question the credibility of our online sources?

Do we interrogate the motives of every news piece?

Do we even understand the broadcast messages we are forwarding to “100 people in an hour”?

How many of us still believe that something bad is going to happen to us if we don’t forward that BBM to 10 people?

Media literacy among citizens is needed so that we can be critical of the messages we come across in different media forms.

A media-literate citizen is not a passive consumer of news, online posts, video clips, and other forms of communication.

When citizens believe almost everything they read in the newspapers, our understanding of the media, as a nation, becomes questionable and our levels of impressionability are lamentable.

When young people emulate what they see in advertisements, our ability to engage intellectually with media messages is open for questioning.

When Facebook serial rapists manage to victimise girls, then our social-media skills need a boost. When SMSes which tell us that we’ve won massive amounts of money in competitions we haven’t even entered, still result in us giving away our banking details and ID numbers, it leaves us with no doubt that we are in trouble as a nation.

The thing is, we have become an impressionable bunch of young people who follow trends that we see in the media without seeking any insight into what underpins them.

It seems as though everything that is shown on music videos is taken seriously by us, the young people. I’m not against being youthful and funky, I’m bemoaning the regrettable loss of our critical minds in the clutter of amusement and fun.

It goes without contestation that the media form a significant and ubiquitous part of our lives. Every morning, our eyes feed on the news.

We meditate on what we read. We act out what we watch. We hold discussions about what we hear on the radio. In all spheres of our human interactions, the basis of our conversations is established by the media.

The media are in control of public opinion. This is a critical monopoly that poses a danger when those who consume media messages lack the skill to analyse critically what they hear.

It is in light of that monopoly that I believe a citizenry that is not educated about the media is a danger to our democracy.

We need to analyse and evaluate messages so that we may distinguish propaganda from truth.

It’s during times preceding elections that media literacy becomes even more essential, since both government and the media have a tendency to abuse the low levels of media education by communicating information that is biased in their favour, to influence our decisions.

For some reason, we always find people who believe the first thing they read without considering contradicting, possibly more true, views.

To make informed decisions based on what we read, an analytical mind is needed.

Now that discussions to have information and communication technology (ICT) used as an aid to learning and teaching in the classroom have begun, the question will have to be formulated around the levels of media literacy among our teachers, especially those who are rural- and township-based.

At a young age, pupils should be introduced to the media. We need media education to prevent ourselves from becoming passive recipients of propaganda from the government, online opportunists, marketers and newspapers.

Illiteracy on the Internet makes us a danger to ourselves.

We become a self-endangered species — victims of our own villains.

Let’s be critical as media users. That way we won’t become victims of scams, worshippers of headlines and survivors of online serial rapists. — News24.

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