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Editorial Reflection

Media education can help us discern our responsibility and media’s role

Twitter has announced it will ban threats and abusive behavior by users.  The action is in response to critics calling for Twitter to prevent extremists from using it and other social media to recruit and spread violence.

The policy says Twitter “will not tolerate behavior intended to harass, intimidate or use fear to silence another user’s voice” while embracing and encouraging “diverse opinions and beliefs.”

Meanwhile, cyberbullying apps are used  to harass, intimidate and victimize our young people.  What’s behind those means to disgrace and undermine individuals?

What are the lines drawn for identifying hateful speech or speech that promotes terrorism on the national and world levels, or bullying on the personal or school levels?

In general, we as citizens have responsibility to know about biases of media outlets, how repetition of information makes lies seem true, and how media choices on what they cover and don’t cover influence our perspectives of life and the world. 

The Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media in Spokane recognizes that media is one of the most powerful influences shaping attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviors of children, families and communities.

All media and citizens must reflect on media content, access and abuse.  Faith communities can join in the education process, along with families and schools. 

Here are some questions to consider:

How much is any media outlet or technology wittingly or unwittingly the means for transmitting and repeating hate, racism, bigotry, intolerance, division, extremism and violence that feed into the goals of those who would destroy lives, communities, nations and cultures? 

How much does coverage of terrorist motivations and tactics promote terrorism?

 Looking at campaign coverage we might ask questions about leadership and citizenship in the digital age:

Do we just let those who compete to lead us engage in a frenzy of bullying and hate spewed out to us through media?

Is leadership a just popularity contest?

Is leadership about spreading lies and vulgarities to appeal to populist sentiments?

Is leadership about dividing people and putting people down?

What kind of citizenship do we seek to nurture?  What kind of citizenship do we want for our young people?

Are media using tools available to them thoughtfully, ethically and responsibly?

Do citizens have tools for digital and media literacy to understand ethics, etiquette and security, to access, analyze, evaluate and interpret what is presented in media?

Doctors advise limiting the hours of screen time a day.  Beyond time limits, we need to teach responsible choices about media use.  We need young people to avoid mindlessly watching media that promote consumerism, violence, competition, sensation, division, distrust and fear. We need them to watch educational programs that teach history, culture and values.

Media can have a positive influence on society if they educate.  In the 1960s, media helped challenge racism, promote human rights, question the Vietnam War and investigate corruption.  Those stories had the conflict and sensation requisite for news, but also pursued justice and truth.

Recent media reports on historic, record-breaking windstorms, snowstorms, tornadoes, flooding, droughts and firestorms, not only inform us about these extreme events, but also help build awareness of climate change, draw funding and build community, neighbor-helping-neighbor, recovery efforts.  Such reporting can keep us from feeling helpless and fearful.

As we follow media coverage, we need to be attuned to digital and media citizenship and literacy. We need to educate people about the influence of media on our lives and our culture, both so that we are critical media consumers, and so media representatives are stewards of their public trust.

Mary Stamp - Editor



Copyright © January 2016 - The Fig Tree