Why Media Literacy Matters – Photojournalism and Diversity

Teaching about racial diversity through photojournalism.

Media literacy teaches critical thinking and communications skills such as photojournalism.

Photojournalism is a universal language that uses photographs for storytelling and allows people of all races and cultures to find the things they have in common.

Below are two examples of how teachers used media literacy education to help their students learn about different cultures.

In a lesson about stereotypes, students in South Korea reflected on how media images of race and stereotypes had influenced their own reactions toward other people. The students also learned how producing stories about things they felt were important could make a difference in the ways they interacted with other people (Yoon, 2010).

Mary Guerrero, a teacher in the Lawrence Public School system in Massachusetts, used a photojournalism project to influence how her students perceived themselves and their city. She designed hands-on projects that engaged her students in their surroundings and encouraged them to express themselves. Her students discovered aspects of the city that they did not know existed, which reminded them of the similarities between different cultures (Marinell, 2008).

Photojournalism is one of the many tools of the media that can potentially help encourage creativity among the students and show them that something fun can have a powerful effect on society.

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References

Marinell, W. (2008). Voices Inside Schools. Capturing Authenticity, Transforming Perception: One Teacher’s Efforts to Improve Her Students’ Performance by Challenging Their Impressions of Self and Community. Harvard Educational Review, 78(3), 529-548.

Yoon, J. (2010). “Media literacy education to promote cultural competence and adaptation among diverse students: A case study of North Korean refugees in South Korea”. Temple University.

Why Media Literacy Matters – Stereotypes

Information comes from all over the world through powerful images.

Photography, video and film can perpetuate stereotypes.

Stereotypes can manipulate people’s thoughts and feelings, cause rage, unreason and even persecution (Shaheen, 2009)

Misrepresentations of immigrants and certain minority groups in the media play a significant role in shaping the public attitudes and opin­ions of people (Martens, 2010), which further perpetuate the stereotypes in society.

Immigrants and certain minority groups are often viewed as dangerous, a nuisance or as individuals in need of the country’s assistance. These stereotypes have been accepted by society as the norm.

These messages perpetuate the idea of “us versus them”.

These negative stereotypes presented by the media portray people of other races and cultures as “other” and establish them as inferior.

The media consistently portray racial minorities in stereotypical roles and although not all stereotypes are negative, even benign ones could encourage prejudice and benevolent feelings that are just as problematic (Ramasubramanian and Oliver, 2007).

Therefore, people need to be aware of how the media manipulates their beliefs.

People need to learn how to analyze media messages so that they are not misled by false information.

Media literacy education can help minimize the harm.

Media literacy teaches people the critical thinking skills that are necessary for understanding the complex messages presented by the media.

Researchers have concluded that if people practice and put in a conscious effort to negate stereotypical associations, they could reduce prejudice (Ramasubramanian and Oliver, 2007).

Media literacy training can help people see how news media often serve to rationalize existing social norms and expectations (Ramasubramanian, 2007).

People will then be more aware of how the media shapes social reality and will be less likely influenced by negative stereotypes.

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References

Martens, H. (2010).Evaluating Media Literacy Education: Concepts, Theories and Future Directions. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 2(1), 1-22.

Ramasubramanian, S. (2007). Media-Based Strategies to Reduce Racial Stereotypes Activated by News Stories. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 84(2), 249-264.

Ramasubramanian, S. and Oliver, M.B. (2007). Activating and Suppressing Hostile and Benevolent Racism: Evidence for Comparative Media Stereotyping. Media Psychology, 9, 623-646.

Shaheen, J. (2009). Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press. Preface and Introduction.