The Importance of Media Literacy

By Kaiser Moffat

Media literacy, put simply, is the ability to identify different types of media and the messages they are sending. When we speak of media, it encompasses print media, such as newspapers, magazines and posters, and theatrical presentations, tweets, radio broadcasts, etc. Being able to understand these various forms of information with an ability to make sense of what is presented is key.

Sidewalk newspaper boxes lined up by a covered plaza

When we  see an image on television or in a magazine, what initially comes to our mind? We make sense of what we see based on our own judgement, as well as past experiences and sometimes based on our worldview or outlook. However, the images themselves can conjure or sway our thinking in a particular direction.

An image, and the way it is presented, can be biased and influence the viewer to take a particular stance on a matter. Given the technological developments in the past few years, we are bombarded by images, views, write-ups and videos that seek to sway us to a particular way of thinking. Therefore, we as the readers or viewers need to view the media objectively, with the goal to find out or analyze what is being presented. In a perfect world, both sides of every argument or depiction would be presented and we would be able to make informed decisions based on the information we receive in the media; however, most often people create media to influence you in one particular way.

As an informed viewer, the onus is on you to first be able to read or view the media and decipher what messages are being conveyed. Analyze the images to decide whether they present a fair depiction of both sides of the argument. It is pivotal for us to consider the source of the information and ask ourselves what the person’s objective is. This can clarify whether it is a reliable source or not. For example, Amazon.com is trying to sell a product. The website’s credibility is always important. When viewing a website, it is important to consider the purpose of the site. Pages with a strong advocacy position, especially on controversial topics, will not always present objective information, as they may wish to sell you a product, an idea, a lifestyle or political viewpoint. One must also consider the design of the site — a webpage with flashing graphics and intrusive sounds and videos may be more interested in grabbing your attention than in presenting reliable information. Pages cluttered with advertisements may be more interested in earning income than providing useful content. It is very important to look at the site’s URL. For example, .gov or .mil is an official government website and the information on these sites is subject to layers of reviewed quality assurance prior to posting. University and school sites are identified by .edu and there are established standards for posting information, as opposed to students with personal web pages that have no established standards for information. Other URLS such as .com, .org, and .net follow their own standards for quality control.

Therefore it is important when using various forms of media to consider the purpose of the information you are viewing, also to consider the credibility of the source, as well to draw a conclusion about the viewpoint or position being presented.

Kaiser MoffatKaiser Moffat hails from the beautiful, sandy island of St. Lucia, known as “The Helen of the West Indies” in the Caribbean.

“I am a government employee by profession. I enjoy reading and writing, sightseeing and caring for my four lovely daughters. I have a small manufacturing business where I retail bottled coconut water and other local fruit juices to help sustain myself and my family. My spouse and I are currently separated, but we co-parent our children.My experience in the media has been writing news for the national radio station, Radio St. Lucia. Media literacy is pivotal to understanding the world around us in this era of our history, given the predominance of media in our daily lives.”