Media Literacy with Callie Crossley

February 09, 2011

Media Literacy with Callie CrossleyThe University Speaker Series hosted a vibrant presentation on “Media Literacy,” by broadcast journalist, commentator and filmmaker Callie Crossley. Crossley is the host of her own talk show about current events on WGBH-FM radio in Boston. Her own career in journalism is broad and distinguished. She was a producer covering medicine and health stories on the ABC News show “20/20,” and also served as a producer on the acclaimed  documentary series “Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil  Rights Years 1954-1965.” For the past several years, she has worked at Harvard University for the Neiman Foundation for Journalism. Crossley explained why media literacy is so important in the following interview.

Question: What is media literacy, or is there one, single definition?

Answer: There really isn’t one definition, but how I define it is in terms of a person who wants to
be informed by many different avenues. There is no one place where you can get all of your information. There aren’t two or three places anymore where you can get all the information you need. You may be able to become informed doing that, but not informed in the way people in college and seeking to be our leaders need to be informed. What we already know by many, many studies is that even with all the information that is coming at us in variety of ways, people go instead right to niches, and they rarely come out. To be an informed person, you have to come out of those niches. You have to be literate about the information that is coming from all media––and media is a plural. We don’t tend to think of it that way, but it is.

Question: What is an example of media illiteracy?

Answer: The events in Eqypt. We Americans were quite illiterate about what’s been going on there. We thought these protests just started, but we now know from Al Jazeera (in English) that these protests have been going on for four months. You needed a source from the Mideast or “The Economist,” where we’re not likely to have so much U.S.-centered information, to understand that. We can’t afford to be at the back end.  We need to know how to handle information, how to understand what’s happening, even in the most cursory way.
Question:  Is this more important than reading literacy, computer literacy, mathematical literacy, or scientific literacy? There seem to be so many subject areas where we are told we need more skills.

Answer:  What I am talking about is information you need to know to exist in the world every day. It is all interconnected. But you can function without having to be specialized in some of those other areas, whereas what I am talking about is a little more broad, a little more global.
Question: Could you share your advice on how to become more media literate, or how to stay that way?
Answer: There may be a few things I have found that may be helpful. The overall advice is what no one wants to hear: you just have to do a little more work. Get out of your box. Become aware of the boxes you are in. College students are in the elite in this country whether they know it or not, and it is incumbent on them to get some good habits as savvy media consumers now.