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Echoes and Mirrors» Blog Archive

The Public, Media and The First Amendment: Michael Grant at The Moderate Voice takes it on:

In 35 years of newspapering and teaching, I developed a quiet amusement over the general public’s almost total ignorance of how the news media does its job. Then, last year, I received the following email from a reader, one Stuart Jewell, complaining about media content: “It’s strange to me, that almost all columnists and reporters assume the talent of being able to define what ‘the people’ want to know and how urgently they want to know it.”

His words struck not my newspaperman’s heart, but my media educator’s brain. I thought: “It’s not strange at all. Columnists and reporters don’t assume anything. They go to journalism school, where they learn the definitions of what the people want to know, and how urgently they want to know it. The study of journalism, and all the other media forms, is as black-and-white as learning English. The media uses definitions, rules and values that are as clear-cut as the conjugation of verbs.”

Suddenly, and clearly, I understood that Stuart Jewell’s problem was not ignorance. It was illiteracy. Media literacy is not a required subject in American schools, from kindergarten to university. Jewell had offered a judgment of a vital democratic institution without any sort of a knowledge baseline. With his focus, I expanded my ongoing research into the media-public relationship, and I found a gap, between the media and the public.

This is the sort of thing that I read and feel a bit nonplussed about: I let out a bit of a sigh and acknowledge it.

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