Academic journal article Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication

More Than Writing and Reporting: Examining the Overall Media Literacy of Today's Journalism Students

Academic journal article Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication

More Than Writing and Reporting: Examining the Overall Media Literacy of Today's Journalism Students

Article excerpt

Adapting to the modern digital media landscape has not been easy for the field of journalism and the nearly 100,000 people employed by a news organization in the United States (Cohen, 2001; Doctor, 2010). Between 1991 and 2012, daily TV news viewership dropped from 68% to 55%, daily newspaper readership slipped from 56% to 29%, and daily radio news listening declined from 54% to 33%. Such declines have been especially dramatic among the younger population; just 13% of Americans under 30 read a newspaper either in print or digitally, and only 34% watch news on TV (Pew Research Center, 2012).

The audience fragmentation caused by new digital media options have led to significant financial pressures, and during the first decade of the 21st century, nearly 14,000 newspaper journalists-about 25% of the workforce-lost their jobs (Knight Commission, 2009; Pew Research Center, 2009). Those who have survived the painful cutbacks face an industry that is transformed (Adams, 2008; Greenwald, 2004; Henry, 1999) and that has gone digital. The increasing importance of new technologies and techniques in the "new ecology of journalism" (Knight Commission, 2009, p. 26) means that there is an ever evolving set of skills that journalists need to possess. The job of the modern journalist has changed; today's journalists are expected to do it all, ranging from researching a story to producing multimedia content (Kawamoto, 2003).

The changing expectations for journalists have led to an increased need for mid-career media training (Niles, 2010), and changes in the curriculum of college-level journalism programs. Not surprisingly, the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC, 2012, 2013) now requires its 108 accredited programs to offer "demanding and current" instruction regarding "professional expectations of digital, technological and multimedia competencies."

This recognition stretches beyond the borders of the United States (Hans-Henrick, 2002). The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, 2007) has outlined a model for media education in journalism programs, and the World Journalism Education Congress (2007) has stressed the need for media standards in journalism education. Indeed, specific media skills related to multimedia production and Web publishing are necessary for today's journalists and are important to address in journalism schools (Melki, 2009). Yet, teaching and learning how to use technology is not enough. Broader competencies also are necessary in order to contextualize these skills. It is in this regard that a media literacy perspective can be useful for journalism education.


As highlighted by Nichole Pinkard (2013), founder of the Digital Youth Network, "literacy has always been defined by the technology" (para. 1). While print-based technologies dominated the media landscape for the past halfmillennium and resulted in a definition of literacy focused on alphabetic competencies, today's interactive and multimedia technologies mean that a broader definition of literacy is needed. Accordingly, multiple literacies have been identified (Brown, 1998; Mackey, 2002; New London Group, 1996) including media literacy.

Many different perspectives on the specifics of media literacy exist (Fedorov, 2003; Potter, 2010), but the central tenants are clearly articulated in the definition adopted by the National Association for Media Literacy Education (2007, 2011) as well as UNESCO (Silver, 2009). This definition states that media literacy involves a set of competencies associated with accessing, analyzing, evaluating, and communicating messages. Accessing media involves finding and selecting appropriate media to meet specific goals (Wulff, 1997; see also Koltay, 2011). Skills associated with media access range from basic competencies that are necessary for media use on a daily basis (Hobbs, 2011) to more advanced competencies that involve searching for quality data, information, or media for use when writing or creating a multimedia product. …

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