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Media Literacy in the Digital Age

Posted July 8th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

By Karen Archer Perry

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."  
Mark Twain realized that literacy meant not just reading and writing but critical thinking, analysis and discernment.   In this digital age of information overload and self-publishing, Mark Twain’s understanding of literacy resonates anew. In the vast space of internet information, it’s ever more important to have an educated citizenry: one that can separate credible information from that which is unfounded and one that contributes constructively to civic discourse.
 
Media itself is being redefined as part of this new landscape of unlimited space and easy entry points to online publishing. In the new information ecosystem, a high responsibility falls on both producers and consumers of information. For consumers, there is endless material – and the challenge is to find the good blogs, videos, essays, news stories and documentaries of our time. Producers, on the other hand, bear responsibility to adhere to high standards of accuracy, diligence and transparency.
 
According to the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in Democracy, successful participation in the digital age of media requires, in part, “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create the information products.”[i] 
 
But what should “media literacy” or “digital literacy” entail?
 
 The National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), has included media literacy in the Common Core Standards for what American school children should learn. They write:
.
“To be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and nonprint texts in media forms old and new. The need to conduct research and to produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today’s curriculum. In like fashion, research and media skills and understandings are embedded throughout the Standards rather than treated in a separate section.” [ii]
 
Do you agree?


[i] Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, the Report of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in Democracy,” 2009, The Aspen Institute, page 45, www.knightcomm.org.

[ii] “National Governors Association and State Education Chiefs Launch Common State Academic Standards,” News Release from NGA Center and CCSSO, June 2, 2010, http://www.corestandards.org/news, retrieved June 28, 2010.

Posted in Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities
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Columbia Journalism Dean Delivers Commencement Speech on Future of Media

Posted May 19th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, delivered this commencement speech to the Class of 2010:

Last year I urged our graduates to get involved in the larger conversation about the future of journalism that is now taking place very intensely in societies all over the world—a conversation that is going on not just within the confines of the profession, as was customary before the digital revolution arrived.

This year I’d like to deliver a similar, but more pointed, message. If you heard me last year, well, sorry, but as my mother used to say, it bears repeating.
 
Just after I arrived here as dean, seven years ago, I got a call from a senior at Harvard who was writing a thesis about the media reform movement—the folks who push for government policies meant to reduce the scope of big media companies. She wanted to know why there never seemed to be any journalists involved in that movement’s activities, either as supporters or as opponents.
 
It was a good question. Media reform simply isn’t on most journalists’ minds, even though many or most of us work for media companies, or would like to. Why not? I think it’s because we like to conceive of ourselves as independent solo crusaders, who go out, uncover uncomfortable truths, and resolutely bring them to the public’s attention. All we need to be able to do this is freedom.
 
But what makes our idea of ourselves more complicated now is that, at least in the United States, with the advent of the open Internet we don’t lack for the freedom to say what we want. What we urgently need more of is economic support for the kind of dogged reporting that, at least at this school, we hold up as the sine qua non of great journalism. Journalists of my generation grew up believing that the best way to get this support was by demanding it from rich owners. But now owners of journalistic properties aren’t so rich. So whom do we ask?
 
Many years ago when he was a law professor, Lee Bollinger, the president of this university, used to write that the United States had a dual press system, with an unregulated realm, print, and a regulated realm, broadcast. Both the newspapers and the broadcast outlets usually had a highly protected monopoly position in their markets, which made them very profitable and therefore able to support journalism.
 
In the digital age, President Bollinger’s distinction doesn’t really hold any more. Most journalism is consumed online, and most of us get online through a system that government touches: a cable line, a telephone wire, a satellite.
So even though it may not appear that way to you, journalism is deeply intertwined with government policy. And the way government, business, and technology have set up the playing field, the folks who carry the signal to your computer make money and the folks who create the material the signal carries (meaning, among others, we journalists) do not.
There is an intense debate going on right this minute about government policies that will have enormous effects on the future of journalism.
 
The media reform movement, as always, is mainly focused on limiting the power of big media companies and on improving public access. Therefore its main causes regarding the Internet are universal broadband access, so that everybody everywhere can have fast service, and net neutrality, so that Internet service providers have to continue giving every user equal access to every Web site. Internet service providers, as always, are pushing back against the media reform movement—and journalists are almost nowhere to be found in the debate.
 
One of the few journalism organizations to answer a recent call from the Federal Communications Commission to comment on the future of our business was the Radio, Television, and Digital News Association, whose public comment pronounced the state of commercial broadcast journalism to be just fine, and ended on this libertarian note:
 
“The Commission should not accede to calls from those who would have the government tell the public what is best for them or who would integrate the government and the press. That would deal a far greater blow to our democracy than any perceived contraction in journalism.”
 
If the reformers win this round, then most Americans will be able to go anywhere they want in the vast reaches of the Web. But I am far less optimistic than the RTDNA that journalists will have the economic means of producing journalism. We could wind up with a situation that’s an exaggerated version of what we have now: more access, less real reportorial journalism.
 
Let’s assume everybody in this room wants to see our profession have the resources it needs to perform its function in society to the fullest. Where will the resources come from?
 
Most of the discussion about the fabled new business model for journalism, whose arrival we are all eagerly awaiting, seems to be turning to the idea of restricting the regime of absolutely free access to all journalism produced everywhere that we have had over the last few years. News organizations’ Web sites will begin charging for access. New tablet-style mobile devices will probably charge readers from the git-go. And advertisers may find readers who can and do pay to be a more attractive audience than easily distractible Web surfers.
 
Even if all this works economically, it will still represent a departure from the current socially attractive and economically untenable idea that the fruits of our journalistic labor should be available free to all the citizens of the world. So one could argue that economic support for journalism is a public good and should be funded from sources in addition to the free market, as universities like Columbia are.
 
Maybe Internet service providers should be compelled to set aside some money for news production, as broadcasters, in effect, used to be. Or maybe the public radio and television systems should get funding to do more original local reporting. Or maybe philanthropy should fund journalism. Or maybe government itself should, with appropriate firewalls to protect editorial freedom, as it has with high distinction in some other countries.
 
These are not abstract ideas from a seminar room. They are intensely and urgently under discussion right now, in Washington and much of the rest of the world—but mainly without the participation of journalists. I am using my few minutes at the podium today to urge you as strongly as I can not only to go out and be great journalists, but also to learn about and engage in the realm of public policy that affects our profession.
 
There will be decisions made in just the next few years that will profoundly affect the way you do your work over the many decades of your careers. You really shouldn’t let them be made without us, collectively, in the room. The idea that journalists somehow sully themselves if they become active participants in shaping the future of our profession isn’t just silly--it’s dangerous, if you believe journalism is as vital to the health of free societies as I think we all do.
 
As young journalists, you are standing at the doorway to a new period in our profession, whose nature is still being determined. Journalists always get to witness history unfolding; that’s one of the great attractions of our profession. You will also get to witness the history of journalism unfolding, more dramatically than most of us sitting here on the stage have. Please, don’t let yourselves be on the receiving end of history. Be participants in it.
 

Posted in Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities
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How to Participate in FCC Future of Media Workshop on April 30

Posted April 28th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

 The FCC is holding its second Future of Media workshop on Friday, April 30 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the topic: “Public and Other Noncommercial Media in the Digital Era.”

The workshop will focus on several key issues, including:

-- The possibilities for greater collaboration among noncommercial media entities such as public broadcasters, PEG channels, noncommercial web-based outlets, and other new media entities;

-- The role of public and other noncommercial media in serving the information needs of the underserved, including minorities, children, the disabled, and the economically disadvantaged;

-- Evolving business and organizational structures of public and other noncommercial media entities and the ways these are impacted by government policy;

 -- Innovative uses of social media, gaming, Internet applications, citizen journalism, mobile technologies, and other technological and organizational innovations; 

-- The possibilities for new kinds of noncommercial media networks and associated funding models.

The workshop will be held in the Commission Meeting Room, Room TW-C305, at the FCC headquarters on 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC. The public is encouraged to attend.   You can also participate in the workshop by viewing the FCC Live web page at www.fcc.gov/live. Submit questions to the panelists via e-mail (futureofmedia@fcc.gov) or Twitter using #FOMwkshop.   View the press release and agenda (.pdf)

Posted in Workshops Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities Noncommercial and Public Media
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Steven Waldman, Senior Advisor to FCC Chairman, Delivers Speech on Future of Media

Posted April 19th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

 

Prepared Remarks by Steven Waldman, Senior Advisor to the Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, before the Free State Institute at the National Press Club
 
April 16, 2010
 
I’ve now attended many, many conferences on the future of journalism.  And I’m late to the game. There were, it seems, hundreds of conferences before I got into this field.   This makes me think there’s an obvious solution to the problems of journalism: Just charge a lot for participation in conferences about the future of journalism.  That’ll raise more than enough money.
 
As fool-proof as this idea seemed to me, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowki, asked that I go a bit further.  He asked me to run a project on “the future of media and the information needs of communities.”
 
The objective of this review is to assess whether all Americans have access to vibrant, diverse sources of news and information that will enable them to enrich their lives, their communities and our democracy.
 
Let’s first start with the question that seems to be most on your mind: is it even appropriate for the FCC to be looking at the future of media?  One analyst said that my inquiry itself would chill free speech.
 
Let me start with a pedestrian point.  What we’re working on  right now is  a report, not a rulemaking.  So our looking at topics like newspaper health in no way means we’ll be suggesting FCC regulating newspapers.  On the other hand, to do a report on the health of the news and information media and not mention newspapers would by like doing a study on baseball but refusing to look at pitchers.
 
Second, there’s an implicit premise that if the FCC were to look at the future of the media, that would represent a dramatic new role for the government.   In fact, the government already is very involved in the media industry.
 
I’m not talking about Ben Franklin getting postal subsidies for the Pennsylvania Gazette 200 years ago – though it is true that the Founders supported massive public subsidies for the newspaper business and it’s also true that the government still spends hundreds of millions of dollars on postal subsidies for periodicals to this day. I’m talking about a large pile of communication policies that has grown over the years, often with bipartisan support.
 
Among the ways the government affects media are:
 
·       The government in effect restricts how many TV stations a company can own in the country and within a particular market, and whether a company can own a newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same town
 
·       The government decided that some of the public’s spectrum should be used to serve local communities, and that in exchange for the right to use its channel, each station must operate in the “public interest” by airing programming that treats the needs and issues of its community.
 
·       It decides how spectrum is auctioned for wireless carriers.
 
·       It required satellite operators to set aside channels for educational or informational programming and allowed municipalities to require that cable TV operators do the same.
... Read More.

Posted in About the Project Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities
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Project for Excellence in Journalism Releases Important "State of the Media" Report

Posted March 16th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released their very important State of the Media report yesterday.  

Here’s the report.
http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2010/

Here’s a good summary from the Columbia Journalism Review:
 
Top two items from CJR:

1) To put all those tiny little papercuts into perspective; each round of newspaper layoffs, here and there, equals one big gushing head wound:
“We estimate that the newspaper industry has lost $1.6 billion in annual reporting and editing capacity since 2000, or roughly 30 percent, which leaves an extra $4.4 billion remaining. Even if the economy improves, we predict more cuts in 2010.”

2) Today’s brave new media ventures are rowboats struggling against the rushing tide of lost journalistic capital. The following statistic only underscores how important it is to critically examine the short- and long-term prospects of many new media ventures funded by foundations and individual donors. How long will their charity be sustainable?
“$141 million of nonprofit money has flowed into new media efforts over the last four years (not including public broadcasting). That is less than one-tenth of the losses in newspaper resources alone.”

 

Posted in Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities Newspapers and Magazines
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How to Participate in FCC Workshop on March 4

Posted March 3rd, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

The FCC is holding a workshop entitled “Serving the Public Interest in the Digital Era” on March 4, 2010 from 10:30 am to 5 pm.

The workshop will focus on:

  • A brief history and overview of policies involving “public interest” requirements for commercial media and telecommunications companies;
  • The state of local commercial broadcast TV and radio news and information; and
  • The impact of media convergence and the emergence of the Internet, mobile technologies, and digital media on media policy.
 
You can participate in the workshop by viewing the livestream on FCC.gov/live and by posing questions or comments to the panelists.
 
You may submit your questions and comments to the panelists through:
 

 

Posted in Workshops Ideas and Debates Commercial TV and Radio Information Needs of Communities
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Public Notice Comment Deadline Extended to May 7

Posted February 19th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

FCC finds that a limited extension of time will further the public interest by allowing all commenters additional time to file studies, analyses and other submissions in response to the Public Notice, facilitating the compilation of a more complete record. The deadline is therefore extended to Friday, May 7, 2010.

 

 

Posted in About the Project Public Notices Information Needs of Communities
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Do More Media Choices Translate to More Polarized Elections?

Posted February 17th, 2010 by Irene Wu

In his book, Post-broadcast democracy: how media choice increases inequality in political involvement and polarizes elections (Cambridge, 2007), Markus Prior shows the following graphs. To simplify, he argues when people with little interest in public affairs lived in an environment with few media choices, they were more likely to hear the headlines – for example, catching a news reel while at the movies. With more media choices – cable and satellite television and the Internet – catching the news as a by-product of other activities declines. In other words, more Americans watched the news when there was little else to watch. Fast forward to today, this means that with more media, citizens who are not interested in politics live in an increasingly separate world those who are – thus elections and political involvement are more polarized. What do you think?

Posted in Ideas and Debates Research and Studies Information Needs of Communities
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New Documentary Explores How Digital Media is Transforming Culture

Posted February 4th, 2010 by Andrew Kaplan - Special Assistant to the Future of Media project

This past Tuesday, Frontline, an investigative journalism show airing nationally on PBS, explored how digital technologies are changing every aspect of our lives, including how we consume media in a 90 minute documentary Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier.

The Frontline website notes: “Within a single generation, digital media and the World Wide Web have transformed virtually every aspect of modern culture, from the way we learn and work to the ways in which we socialize and even conduct war. But is the technology moving faster than we can adapt to it? And is our 24/7 wired world causing us to lose as much as we've gained?”
 
The documentary explores the implications of living in a world consumed by technology and the impact that this constant connectivity may have on future generations. Check out the website and from there you can watch the documentary online for free.
 
Do you believe the technology is moving faster than we can keep up with it? Do you find our wired world causes us “to lose as much as we’ve gained”?

Posted in Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities Internet and Mobile
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Comment on: Information Needs of Communities and Citizens

Posted January 20th, 2010 by William Freedman - Associate Bureau Chief, Media Bureau

The Future of Media project encourages comments and suggestions on the key questions about the changing media landscape.  This post includes broad questions about the information needs of consumers and citizens.  (The full public notice can be found here.)

 

1.    What are the information needs of citizens and communities?  Do citizens and communities have all the information they want and need?  How has the situation changed during the past few years?  In what ways has the situation improved?  Gotten worse?  Consider these categories:

 

·        media platforms (e.g., broadcast, cable, satellite, print, Internet, mobile, gaming);

·        media formats (e.g.,  video, audio, print, email, short message formats);

·        geographic focus (e.g., international, national, state, regional, local, neighborhood, personal);

·        media affiliation (e.g., independent, affiliated with an advocacy organization or movement, academic, governmental);

·        organization type (e.g., commercial media, non-profits, public broadcasting, cultural/educational institutions);

·        types of journalism (e.g., breaking news, investigative, analysis, commentary, beat reporting, objective reporting, advocacy, specialized, general interest, citizen generated, collaborative); and

·        topics (e.g., politics, crime, schools, health, disasters, national news, foreign news, children’s programming).

 

2.    How have the changes in the media landscape affected the delivery of critical information in times of natural disasters, extreme weather, or public health emergencies?  From where do people get their information in such situations?  What, if anything, should the Commission do to ensure that communities receive such often life-saving information widely and quickly?

 

3.    How do young people receive educational and informational media content?  How do they consider and process the news and information provided to them?  How should these patterns affect government policy toward the future of the media? 

 

4.    Are media consumption patterns different in minority communities?  How would those differences affect business models for various media platforms?  What are the implications for the availability of news and information in minority communities?  How should such business models and their implications affect government policy?

 

5.    What roles should libraries and schools play in supporting community information flow?  How can communities best make use of citizens’ talents and interests in the creation, analysis, curating, and sharing of information? 

 

6.    What are the best examples of Federal, state and local governments using new media to provide information to the public in a transparent, easy-to-use manner?  When has this public information been provided directly to consumers and when has it been used as the basis for lower-cost reporting?  In what formats should such data be provided?  Should the laws on government provision of information to the public be changed?

... Read More.

Posted in Public Notices Ideas and Debates Information Needs of Communities
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