Are Media Students Ignorant and cynical about Free Press ?

Are Media Students Ignorant and cynical about Free Press ?

Media literacy programmes help students learn to read news critically, but often leave them ignorant and cynical about the essential role of a free press in society, a study has found.

The study of 239 University of Maryland undergraduates to evaluate the effectiveness of media literacy education, the largest study of its kind, found that such courses increase their ability to understand, evaluate and analyze media messages. But the courses often turn out cynics who lack an understanding of the media’s essential role in democracy.

“They displayed little active understanding or awareness of media’s roles and responsibilities in a democratic society, nor of media’s essential role for informed citizenship,” said Dr Paul Mihailidis, who conducted the study and presented its findings at a recent World Association of Newspapers Young Reader seminar.

Dr Mihailidis, Director of the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change in Austria and an Assistant Professor of Journalism, Media Studies and Public Relations at Hofstra University in New York, is helping to develop curricula that combine media literacy skills with promotion of active citizenship.

Media literacy course shouldn’t just help students look more critically as news, he said. “It means understanding that every individual in Western society is dependent on media for local and global information. It means adopting and adapting such information to become an aware media citizen. Only then will the true benefits of media literacy become apparent.”

A report on the study can be downloaded from the bottom of this document.

The recent Young Reader workshop, held in Paris, is part of the World Association of Newspaper’s efforts to encourage a greater understanding of the independent media’s essential role in democratic society and the potential for using newspapers in education to build citizenship.

“Research in several countries has shown repeatedly – and very recently — that Newspapers in Education (NIE) programmes effectively help teach children both to think critically and to embrace civic values, including the crucial role of the newspaper and other news media in a democratic community,” said Dr. Aralynn McMane, Director of WAN Young Reader Programmes. “Wewant to help those who work in media literacy teach the crucial importance of press freedom — its benefits, its heroes, its price and its fragility.”

Among other projects, WAN is contributing to a media literacy curriculum being developed by the Division of Freedom of Expression, Democracy and Peace at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The project seeks to teach the importance of press freedom while encouraging students to engage in their societies. The developing curriculum, which was presented at the workshop, can be found here.

WAN’s Young Readership Development Programme is also planning a new edition of its “Express Yourself” workbook, which provides exercises for students to explore freedom of the press. The format will allow newspapers to print it within an edition, as many have done for WAN’s World Newspaper Reading Passport.

A series of Newspapers in Education seminars in Asia to promote the use of newspapers in education (NIE). The most recent seminar, held in Bangkok in September, brought together newspaper executives from Thailand, the Philippines, Nepal, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Australia, who developed a series of recommendations for using newspapers as a tool for education, to promote citizenship and to build democracy in the region. The recommendations can be found here. The seminar was organised in cooperation with the Thai Press Development Council with support from Norske Skog.

Advising the first African Media Literacy conference, held in Nigeria in July, which focused on how the newspaper can be an ally in providing a better understanding of media messages on all platforms and how long-proven Newspapers in Education strategies offer ready-made models for this work. A report for the conference on “Media Literacy and the Democratic Dividend,” by David Sseppuuya, Communications Manager for World Vision in Uganda, can be found here.

Informing a Luxembourg Press Council conference for political leaders, teachers, professors and representatives of the University of Luxembourg about recent research in Canada, the United States, Finland and The Netherlands that links newspaper readership among the young with higher levels of both an understanding of democratic values and civic engagement. More about that research can be found here.

The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom and the professional and business interests of newspapers world-wide. Representing 18,000 newspapers, its membership includes 77 national newspaper associations, newspaper companies and individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups.

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