Why Media Literacy Matters – Thanksgiving holiday

Pilgrims, Indians and turkey.

That is what most Americans think of when asked about the origin of Thanksgiving.

Mark Brumley, an educator and the moderator of the HP Teacher Experience Exchange, suggested that students research various websites to learn about the true account of Thanksgiving.

A Google search reveals the feast at Plymouth as the most popular result.

The media only perpetuates this holiday myth.

The pilgrims did not celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday that we observe today.

Google reveals several different origins for the holiday.

Some people believe that the tradition was not even recognized until the mid 1800s when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving.

Others believe that it was President George Washington who first proclaimed Thursday, November 26, 1789 to be a holiday.

As Brumley stressed, “this is the perfect time for a media literacy lesson”.

It is important that people recognize how media messages have influenced their view of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving dinner. Cranberry sauce. Turkey.

Farmers in the United States produced around 681 million pounds of cranberries in 2011. $465 million worth of fruit.

Turkey genocide.

46 million turkeys will end up as dinner.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2009 around 250 million turkeys were raised for slaughter. That is $4.5 billion in revenue.

Advertising only encourages people to partake in this activity.

There is another rumor that is perpetuated by the media.

Turkeys are not responsible for drowsiness.

Media literacy will help people understand how media messages are used to promote (and profit from) Thanksgiving. It will also help people analyze the conflicting views about the origin of the holiday.

Why Media Literacy Matters – Obesity in America

Have you noticed that on the cover of nearly every issue of Woman’s World magazine there is a statement about weight loss and images of tasty desserts?Woman's World magazine

This is an example of what social psychologist Karen Dill, Ph.D., defines as bipolar food messaging.

Woman’s World magazine is not the only publication featuring “quick fix” weight loss solutions along with images of desserts. According to Dill (n.d), five out of seven popular women’s magazines (Family Circle, First for Women, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s World and Woman’s Day) presented bipolar food messages. Ladies’ Home Journal and Redbook were the two magazines that did not.

This is a major problem that people need to be aware of.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than one-third (35.7%) of American adults are overweight or obese.

The CDC also reported that more than one third of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese.

People are considered to be obese if they have a body mass index (BMI) above 30. Those with a BMI between 25 to 29.9 are considered to be overweight.

According to an article published by Reuters, the CDC found that obesity rates remained unchanged between 2008 and 2010.

It is only going to get worse. Much worse.

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2011), studies have shown that obese children between 10-13 years of age have an 80 percent chance of becoming obese as adults.

It is predicted that half of American adults will be obese by 2030 (Begley, 2012).

There are many health risks associated with obesity such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, respiratory problems and death.

Research conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children between 8 and 12 years of age are exposed to an average of 21 food ads a day, which equals to about 7,600 ads a year. Teenagers are exposed to an average of 17 food ads a year, which equals to about 6,000 ads a year. Among all food ads targeting children and teenagers, 34 percent focuses on taste appeal (KFF, 2007).

Think about what those numbers mean for an adult. Think about the number of ads someone will have been exposed to by the time they reach adulthood.

Media literacy programs can be implemented to help fight obesity.

People need to recognize how media messages affect them. It is important for people to understand how these messages can influence their choices of food, causing weight gain and other health problems.

Media literacy skills will help people acquire the skills to evaluate media messages and make informed decisions about their food purchases.

These programs will help people develop a greater sense of self-efficacy.

People will then have a better understanding of why they choose to eat the foods they do.


American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (2011). Obesity in Children and Teens. Facts for Families. 79(3/11). 

Begley, S. (2012, September 18). Fat and getting fatter: U.S. obesity rates to soar by 2030. Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/18/us-obesity-us-idUSBRE88H0RA20120918 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Childhood Obesity Facts. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm

Dill, K. (n.d). Eat Cake and Lose Weight: Bipolar Food Messaging in Woman’s Worldand Other Popular Women’s Magazines. Retrieved from http://drkarendill.wordpress.com/scholarship/vita-and-publications/

Kaiser Family Foundation. (2007). Food For Thought. Menlo Park, CA: Author.

Why Media Literacy Matters – Quality Journalism

With Election Day quickly approaching, it is necessary to address the importance of quality journalism.

New media changed the field of journalism.

Social media tools and the camera phone made it possible for any individual to share information and shape the way people perceive events around the world.

Some describe this as the rise of citizen journalism.

Others believe the field of journalism is simply evolving.

There is a difference between the professional journalist and the so-called citizen journalist but that is not the point.

The point is that despite their differences, they have a common goal in sharing information with the public.

Having access to tools is simply not enough. People need to be taught how to correctly use the tools.

With social media being commonly used as sources of information, it is crucial that journalists and the citizen journalist interpret a tweet or Facebook post correctly.

As I mentioned in a previous post, social media has made it easy to spread fake photographs and share false information.

Journalism has always been about sharing information with the public as quickly as possible.

Poynter published an article about the six social media mistakes that journalists need to avoid on Election Day. One of those is moving too quickly.

Social media makes it easy to share information quickly. Therefore it is important to be extra careful and ensure that accurate information is shared.

As the Poynter article pointed out, social media has increased the potential for errors and false information to be spread.

Whether you are a professional journalist or a citizen journalist, it is important to analyze and think critically about information before sharing it.

Most professional journalists are trained to do so and have a strong grasp on media literacy. However, they are human and can make mistakes.

Besides it does not hurt to reevaluate the importance of media literacy training.

It is important to think about where we get our information and make sure it is accurate.

Failing to do so will result in poor journalism and will only hurt the public.

Media Literacy and Social Support

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has affected millions of people in New York and along the New Jersey coastline.

According to a PBS report, the storm has killed at least 40 people and caused over $20 billion dollars in damage.

Schools and public transportation have been shut down and millions of people are still without power.

Many people are homeless.

In my previous post, I talked about the importance using social media carefully, to not misinform the public by sharing fake images. I also talked about why media literacy matters.

Media literacy plays an important role in teaching people how to use media tools. We now focus on the role that social media plays during times of disaster.

Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are powerful communications tools that can be used to help people in the aftermath of a disaster.

The ability to connect and instantly share information with other people is what makes social media a valuable tool. With social media, people can reach out to those in need and make a difference.

Many people have already been doing so.

An article written by Mark Horvath demonstrates the power of social media.

A sense of community can be established through social media, which provides people with social support.

Van Dam, et al. (2005) explain that social support is about the relationship between individuals and can be seen as an exchange of resources between at least two people.

Such resources include information as well as emotional support. It can also deal with providing people with material goods such as transportation, money or even physical assistance.

Social support is also about the basic social needs of people that are satisfied through interacting with others. It is a network of communication and mutual obligation from family, friends, social and community groups such as churches or clubs (van Dam, et al., 2005).

These supportive social interactions may help lower feelings of lost of control (Hogan, Linden & Najarian, 2002), which helps people cope during times of disaster.

Research conducted by Taylor, Wells, Howell & Raphael (2012) supports the notion that social media can be used to deliver psychological first aid to the victims of disaster and support community resilience.

It is time to focus on the community.




Hogan, B., Linden, W. & Najarian, B. (2002). Social support interventions: Do they work?. Clinical Psychology Review, 22, 381-440.

van Dam, H.A., van der Horst, F.G., Knoops, L., Ryckman, R., Crebolder, H. & van den Borne, B. (2005). Social Support in diabetes: a systematic review of controlled intervention studies. Patient Education and Counseling, 59, 1-12.