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Educators report impact of media on teens

NW-ARM presents Excellence in Media awards

Rebecca Nappi and Jim McPherson
Rebecca Nappi, Spokesman-Review, and Jim McPherson, Whitworth University receive the 2013 Bill Niggemeyer Excellence in Media awards

Phil High-Edwards, assistant principal of Shadle Park High School, and James Wilburn, achievement gap intervention specialist at Lewis and Clark High school and president of the NAACP in Spokane, told of the influence of media on lives of young people and society as part of the 2013 Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media (NW-ARM) Awards Luncheon in May at Gonzaga University.

NW-ARM gave awards for high school and college students who created videos on media influence, and presented its 2013 Bill Niggemeyer Excellence in Media awards to Spokesman-Review feature writer Rebecca Nappi and Whitworth University journalism professor Jim McPherson.

In his presentation, Phil told of transitioning from being a social worker at the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center after he began to teach reading to children in fourth to seventh grades.

“I found my calling,” he said, telling of returning to college so he could teach and then of moving into administration.  Education is not easy today, he said, because of cyber bullying through social media.

Phil High-Edwards
Phil High-Edwards, Assistant Principal of Shadle Park High School

“Social media gives an anonymity to bullying.  When I was in school, we could leave a bully at school.  Today, it follows students home with their 24-hour access to the media,” Phil said.

Even if teens don’t have a Facebook page, friends do, and snapshots they post of students’ mistakes live with them for months, regardless of whether they are true.

Phil worked with Facebook to take down “Spokane Whores” and “Shadle Park Gossip,” pages that had anonymous posts.

“So far, 24 students have left the school,” he said.  “I know where only two of them are.  These were students earning good grades, involved in extracurricular activities and expected to contribute to society.  In a split second, someone said something, and they were gone.

“We need to take responsibility when someone is hurt in our school or community,” Phil said. 

In his presentation, James Wilburn pointed out that because “images affect how we see ourselves” and because media are a form of education, what media do is a civil rights concern for the NAACP.  

Ads and video games inform opinions and shape health, he said, noting that companies spend $15 billion to market to children to instill brand preferences.

“Media create children’s consciences in subtle and not-so-subtle-ways, and influence attitudes on race, class and gender,” James said, “making children believe some people are more valued, privileged and included in society.

“While 44 percent of U.S. children 19 and younger are children of color, they are not visible on prime time,” he said.  “Similarly, women outnumber men, but men predominate in prime-time TV shows.

“How we educate children in media is as important as how we educate them in schools.  We need to monitor media on how they create self image and biases.  Media need to be accountable,” said James, a graduate of the Columbia School of Broadcasting, who has a KYRS radio talk show, “Humaculture” that allows him to educate on how subtle racism is in both the community and the media.

NW-ARM collaborated with Our Kids: Our Business in April to hold a video contest for high school and college students to make videos that show effects of media.

Shelley Clark from Mead High School received first place for her video, “A New Way to Terrorize,” dramatizing the repercussions of cyber bullying on high school girls.  Her video shows three girls texting demeaning messages to another girl—like following her on a lonely road, cornering her and writing put-downs in permanent markers on her arms and face.  The girl later tries unsuccessfully to wash off the words. 

College winners Eduardo Coehlo, Melissa Helgeson and Nathan Webber of Whitworth University visually presented statistics about TV and video games, citing the exposure to violence. 

Melissa described the negative impact of media creating what she calls the “mean-world syndrome.”  Eduardo hopes parents will be aware of how media affect their children.

Since 2000, the alliance has monitored the influence of media on society, educated the community on that influence, and worked to influence media to act responsibly to create a healthy environment.

NW-ARM envisions a community that understands the effects of media on people’s lives and the culture; that empowers youth and adults to be critical consumers of media, and that encourages media to act as responsible, effective stewards of their public trust.

Bill Niggemeyer, after whom the award is named, helped develop a statement on what it takes for media to help create a culture of peace.  Because media replace other storytellers, he said media need to find nuances of peace and solutions compelling, dramatic and exciting.

Rebecca received one of two 2013 Bill Niggemeyer Media Excellence Awards for her feature stories that help create community conversations on social responsibility and values.  NW-ARM chose her because her writing exemplifies responsible reporting, particularly her series on baby boomers as it educates about gender, age, values and cultural issues.

Working with the Spokesman-Review for 28 years, she contributes to the Today section and the recent “Boomer U” series. 

Rebecca recently said that as the oldest woman in the newsroom, she appreciates listening and allowing people to tell their stories, without trying to follow a preconceived idea of what a story should be. 

In doing that, Rebecca said she allows the storyteller’s “authentic story” to unfold. 

The second 2013 award went to Jim McPherson, a former professional newspaper journalist who teaches media studies, media history, media criticism and journalism at Whitworth University.

He is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a member of the NW-ARM Board.

His two books are The Conservatism Resurgence and The Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965 to Present.  Jim advises Whitworth’s student newspaper.

He teaches and mentors future journalists in ethical use of media.

His blog on media and politics is at

For information, call 313-5560 or visit

Phil High-Edwards 354-6707

Copyright © June 2013 - The Fig Tree