If President Donald Trump were raising an issue of the importance of critical thinking as it relates to mass media every time he screamed a warning of “fake news,” that would be one thing. A positive one, too.
Trump flies off the handle and labels certain journalists and news organizations as inherently dishonest (it happens whenever he is challenged with facts). Media literacy is the armor against the most powerful man in the free world. It takes at least some level of media literacy to navigate through the massive and often overwhelming clutter and disinformation coming from certain politicians and, yes, many media organizations.
It's those who are media literate who can assess whether what the tweet of the hour by Trump, the latest press conference or story from Breitbart News Network, Fox News or others is based in fact, informed opinion and analysis. At its core, media literacy is the ability to critically analyze mass media of any kind — advertisements, books, radio, newspaper, TV, internet — and separate the facts from propaganda and lies.
We live in the most mediated society in human history. It follows that media literacy is one of the most important social and education movements around. We believe it should receive more attention in general, specifically in schools.
It's gained traction in some school systems and become an official part of the curriculum, but the road to proper funding has been long and hard. New Mexico has been one of the most active states in media literacy work for many years. Deirdre Downs, daughter of the now-deceased Hugh Downs of "20/20" fame, helped found the former New Mexico Media Literacy Project on the campus of Albuquerque Academy. That organization grew to be the most successful grassroots media literacy organization in the U.S. The New Mexico Media Literacy Project (NMMLP) was involved in many events, including the sponsorship of media literacy forums at the now-defunct Taos Talking Picture Festival (TTPF). The group brought several media literacy giants to Taos multiple times, including David Barsamian and Naomi Klein. Even though NMMLP and TTPF folded, there are still many media literacy groups in New Mexico teaching students and others how to analyze, access and produce media.
One local individual is Taoseña Pamela Pereyra, the New Mexico chapter chair of Media Literacy Now! You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pereyra and others are pushing at the Legislature to approve House Memorial (HM) 49. HM49 calls for a greater look at media literacy and a starting point for statewide discussions on education around safe media and technology use. HM49 also calls for development of best practices in media literacy education. Rep. Roberto “Bobby” J. Gonzales – of Taos County – is the co-sponsor of the memorial.
We support HM49 and think it should be passed and its tenets acted upon. Media literacy is not only about arming the public against lies coming from political leaders, but also about the volume of violence kids see on TV. It's also about the often unhealthy representations in the media around body image and other issues. We hope you contact Pereyra and your representatives in state government and urge support for HM49.