Tag Archive: Journalism

Media Literacy 101

“Do you consider yourself media literate? Of course I am I read the news everyday!” A person who reads the news everyday doesn’t mean that he/she is media literate. In order to be considered a media literate citizen, one should be able to see through the prejudices and stereotypes and distinguish facts from opinions. Not only distinguishing, but also questioning the authenticity of the source of information being used. I believe that being media literate is having the power to deconstruct a media message; to be able to identify who created it, and what is the underlying hidden message beneath it. It is the power to decide what information to accept and what to reject. Furthermore, a media literate person should be immune to all sorts of biases.

We often tend to take the word bias for granted as if its only about political biases, where as this term describes a general tendency towards any specific ideology or perspective. Bias can be based on race, gender, age, religion, and physical appearances. Ever since I was young I have this preconception that good reporters are ‘beautiful’ and dress in a typical manner. The media created a virtual image in my mind of how a sound figure should look like. I think this is a very important challenge that media poses on its audience especially those who are young and haven’t developed ‘bias detectors’. We, as media consumers, tend to think of those who look ‘good’ or dress ‘nice’ as authentic and trustworthy. Mass media defines a set of physical characteristics that are considered ‘beautiful’ and desirable in our society. Those messages are skewed towards an ideal body image that promotes a certain type of people regardless of their authenticity.

There is no specific course that one can take to become media literate; rather it is a process that teaches us how to be skeptical as media consumers. Media literacy is not only the ability to reject certain messages but also the ability to correct them and relate them to our personal life. A possible solution to this challenge is informing young generations about physical biases and how ‘beautiful’ isn’t always right. It starts with a basic understanding of personal biases whereby they become aware of their individual discriminations. Then they pass on this knowledge to analyze media messages and detect the biases they pose on others around them. With media literacy being taught at an early age, we will develop a conscious nation that is critical and objective.

Down With the Wall

Down With the Wall

OWS (Occupy Wall Street) is a protest movement who allegedly began on September 17, in New York. Initiated by the Canadian activist group “adbusters”, the movement’s protests are against social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, corruption, and financial corporate influence on democracy. We said allegedly began on November 17, because, and according to facts, it began earlier; on June 9 the domain name “occupywallstreet.org” was registered by “adbusters”. Numerous media sources interpreted the events of September 17 in New York, and many of their methods of analysis fluctuate. Some see the bigger picture while others fail to do so.

Analyzing Official Government News

Whether we like it or not, we depend on the “special pleading,” the “propaganda,” the “public relations” of communications experts, mostly invisible, to bring to our attention the products, services, people, facts, and ideas that fit in best with our own specific social, psychological, political, and economic situations. These invisible experts, who include advertising and public relations professionals, newspaper editors, book publishers, movie producers, government officials, TV editors and anchormen, and so on thus have a tremendous influence in our lives (Lewis, 2011). On November 11, the Whitehouse Watch posted an article entitled “Occupy Wall Street’s Communist Predecessor”, in which the events that took place on September 17th of 2011 and 1920 are linked and compared. The article emphasizes the irony of the date chosen by OWS to begin their protests, saying that the movement should be ashamed of what they are doing and should reconsider their moves and clear the streets immediately.

Analyzing US Media Sources

On September 17, CBS news posted an article on its main page entitled “Protesters in NYC blast money in Politics”. CBS avoided any kind of analysis or influence; it simply transferred what was happening. The article started by indicating that an alliance of groups who say they were inspired by the Arab Spring protests has initiated a large protest in the heart of the financial district of New York City.

International Coverage

BBC was as cautious as CBS, they did not attempt to further analyze the situation, and simply reported what was happening and conducted some interviews. On October 1st, in an article entitled “Occupy Wall Street protests grow amid Radiohead rumor”, BBC quoted the New York mayor, Mr. Michael Bloomberg, while heavily criticizing the protesters, saying “…they are targeting the wrong people…” (BBC, 2011)
Al Jazeera posted an article on October 4th, covering the events of the first week of demonstrations in New York City. Al Jazeera did not attempt to analyze the situation as well. They simply linked OWS to the Arab Spring. Although Al Jazeera is closer to the West than it claims, they posted pictures of the protesters and the banners they were holding, some of which read: “NYPD (New York Police Department) is a layoff away from joining us” and “We want democracy not corporatocracy”
US-News and USA-Today both posted articles on October 17th, a month after the protests started, linking the events of September 17, 2011 to what happened on September 17, 1920. A major bombing in Wall Street that killed 30 and approximately 300 injured. Both sources tried to intimidate OWS and the protesters, claiming that this was the wrong way of action.
On October 18, ABC news posts an article entitled “Obama: Occupy Wall Street ‘not that different’ from Tea Tarty protests”. The whole article was about the interview with the U.S. president, quoting what he said with a few attempts of analysis, although he was very moderate in his speech and tried to maintain common ground between the protesters and the government. Among the many quotes in the article are the following remarkable sentences: “In some ways, they’re not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party. Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that their institutions aren’t looking out for them. (ABC News, 2011) President Obama said the most important thing he can do as president is express solidarity with the protesters and redouble his commitment to achieving what he described as a more egalitarian society.

What “they” Were Taught to Say

On December 1st, Yahoo News posted an article entitled “How Republicans are being taught to talk about Occupy Wall Street”. The article revolves around 10 major points of what should and should not be said in public. The 10 major points are:
• Don’t say Capitalism
• Don’t say “the government taxes the rich”. Say the government takes from the rich
• Republicans should forget about winning the battle over the “middle class”. Call them “Hardworking Taxpayers”
• Don’t talk about “jobs”. Talk about “careers”
• Don’t say “government spending”. Call it “waste”
• Don’t ever say you are willing to compromise
• The 3 most important words you can say to an Occupier: “I get it”
• Out: ”Entrepreneur”. In: “Job Creator”
• Don’t ever ask anyone to sacrifice
• Always blame Washington
This list was made by Republican Strategist Frank Luntz; he also added an 11th minor point about how the word “bonus” should never be used: “If you give out a bonus at a time of financial hardship, you’re going to make people angry. It’s called ‘pay per performance’”(Luntz, 2011). “What is important in either case is that we, the public, begin to understand this process better so that we begin to differentiate between what we really want and what we’ve been conditioned to want by the invisible government competing for our share of mind and money. Such a differentiation is an important step on the path of self-knowledge and in the struggle for inner freedom (Lewis, 2011).”

When Foreign News Sources Criticize

Since most of the media assume the public is not interested in international news, there is a perceived need to hype the coverage of “foreign” events to an even greater extent than domestic news (Moeller, 1999). Ironically, RT (Russia Today) criticized all other media outlets of being too late to cover the events of the OWS protests. On October 12, in an article entitled “RT was the only media outlet covering OWS protests”, Wide Awake News founder Charlie McGrath blamed what he called “US corporate media” for trying to portray the protests as a left-wing movement. “When these protests started in New York City… Basically RT was the only one out there covering it… and after 19 days and the realization that it wasn’t going away, we say an onslaught of mainstream media, corporate media, show up and try to paint this as a democratic cause…. What they should be doing and what they are doing are completely different things…” (McGrath, 2011) Basically, RT is not only blaming the US media, but also blaming the US government and leaders through their corruptively controlled media.
As time passed, all major media sources covered, followed, posted articles, and conducted interviews concerning the protests by OWS. Some try to paint it in different colors, some try to benefit from the protests, and some try to mislead international and public opinion by taking sides and connecting the OWS movement to other radical movements. On a brighter note, the diversity of the way news is being reported, regardless of the fact that it’s right or wrong, gives the reader/viewer/listener a wealth of information from which only small parts should be taken and connected.
Sometimes however, misleading news reporting can lead to unexpected actions, like rage among a people, increasing protests and sometimes giving them a violent nature, increasing the gap between a people instead of trying to bring it together. Media’s impact on the process of decision-making for a people is not to be underestimated. It is advisable to be open to different media sources and accept all what is being said, and only through critical thinking and objectivity could one be able to draw the information needed from a piece of news.

ABC News. (2011, October 18). Obama: Occupy Wall Street ‘not that different’ from tea party protests. Retrieved December 20, 2011 from http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/10/obama-occupy-wall-street-not-that-different-from-tea-party-protests

Al Jazeera. (2011, October 4). Occupy Wall Street’s first week. Retrieved December 20, 2011 from CBS news. (2011, September 17). Protesters in N.Y.C. blast money in politics. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/09/17/national/main20107772.shtml

Al Jazeera. (2011, September 17). US protesters rally to occupy Wall Street. Retrieved December 20, 2011 from http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/us-protesters-rally-occupy-wall-street

BBC. (2011, October 1). Occupy Wall Street protests grow amid Radiohead rumor. Retrieved December 20, 2011 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-15134806

Ferraro, T. (2011, October 7). Anti-wall st movement has potential political punch. Retrieved December 20, 2011 from http://www.torontosun.com/2011/10/07/anti-wall-st-movement-has-potential-political-punch

Greene, B. (2011, October 17). How ‘occupy wall street’ started and spread. RetrievedDecember 20, 2011 from http://www.usnews.com/news/washington-whispers/articles/2011/10/17/how-occupy-wall-street-started-and-spread

Kengor, P. (2011, November 11). ‘Occupy wall street’ communist predecessor. Retrieved December 20, 2011 from http://www.thewhitehousewatch.com/occupy-wall-street’s-communist-predecessor/

Lewis, D. (2011, November 10). Propaganda in Democracy. Retrieved December 20, 2011 from http://www.authentic-breathing.com/propaganda_in_a_democracy.htm

Moeller, S. (1999, December). Four Habits of News Reporting. Frame Work Institute. Retrieved December 20, 2011, from http://www.frameworksinstitute.org/assets/files/PDF_GII/four_habits_of_news_reporting.pdf

Moody, C. (2011, December 1). How republicans are being taught to talk about occupy Wall Street. Retrieved December 20, 2011 from http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/republicans-being-taught-talk-occupy-wall-street-133707949.html

Moynihan, C. (2011, September 17). Wall Street protest begins, with demonstrators blocked. Retrieved December 20, 2011 from http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/17/wall-street-protest-begins-with-demonstrators-blocked/?ref=occupywallstreet

Russia Today. (2011, October 12). ‘RT was the only media outlet covering OWS protests’. Retrieved December 20, 2011 from http://rt.com/news/rt-media-ows-wedge-619/

Beirut Lounge

Just another pathway to the world of Media in Beirut

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