Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Media Literacy in Journalism Education Curriculum

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Media Literacy in Journalism Education Curriculum

Article excerpt


As a curricular initiative, media literacy presumes to go beyond base theoretical and ethical journalism courses by providing student-outcome, reflexive engagement that enables students to become active participants in an increasingly media-saturated society. In reviewing the current state of media literacy in higher education and hesitancies to its conceptualized benefits to higher education, some light can be shed as to why journalism departments have yet to fully acknowledge how media literacy can enhance their curriculum.

Introduction: media literacy and higher education

As a term, media literacy has mostly been applied to only K-12 education (Hobbs 1998). Christ and Potter (1998) believe that for those in higher education, the process of defining media literacy as an entity requires teachers to look introspectively at what and how they teach. Furthermore, Christ and Potter (1998) broadly identify the main restriction concerning media literacy and its potential value to higher education programs in the U.S.: "Yet, even with the reemergence of media literacy as a key area of interest, the construct itself remains a complex and dynamic phenomenon."

That media literacy, conceptually, is complex and theoretically-based, makes its place in journalism education quite ambiguous. This paper will provide an overview of the current state of media literacy in U.S. higher education, specifically in journalism education curriculum, and outline some of the difficulties confronted in understanding media literacy's potential in higher education. Patricia Hinchey (2003), in her introduction to "Teaching Media Literacy" touches upon the ambiguity that the term 'media literacy' connotes. That media literacy can provide engagement with students in raising critical awareness of the media's role and impact on society is strong ground for its acknowledgement by academics. Her experience is as follows:

   It was so last year when, after several years of teaching not only
   traditional composition and literature courses but also educational
   philosophy and methods courses, I found myself teaching media
   literacy to undergraduate and graduate students. During the course
   of the year I learned that invariably when a colleague asked "What
   are you teaching?" and I answered "teaching media literacy," I could
   anticipate the follow up question, "What is Media Literacy?"

Media literacy on the rise in the U.S.

Media literacy in U.S. higher education has been gaining significant recognition as an established concept and curricular initiative. Increasing numbers of studies concerning media education in the U.S. (Pack 2002, Hobbs & Frost 2003, Chauvin 2003, Considine 2004, Christ 2004, Silverblatt 2004) are drawing attention towards its cause and purpose while further widening its scope.

Concrete courses and/or programs in media literacy continue to be developed in the United States. Silverblatt et al (2002) reported that 61 universities across the United States offer media literacy curricula in their institutions, 34 of which offer it as a separate course, and 27 that claim it is integrated across the curriculum. Master's degrees in media literacy are offered at five institutions in the U.S. Only one university offers a bachelor's degree in media literacy, and furthermore three doctoral programs with a possible focus in media literacy exist. The courses or contents lie predominantly in schools of communication, but can be found quite spread out amongst disciplines (Silverblatt et al, 2002). Also, increasing numbers of media literacy institutions outside of higher education are forming, which provide resources, literature and support for parents, teachers, and professionals aiming to become more 'media literate'[1]. While media education initiatives appear more frequently, some concerns still exist with regard to the extent that higher education institutions are committed to recognizing media literacy as an essential program unit and offering courses in their curriculum (Silverblatt et al, 2002). …

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