2.0 Chapter 2: Becoming an Active User: Principles

“What I like about April Fool’s Day: One day a year we’re asking whether news stories are true. It should be all 365.”

The above quote is a Twitter “tweet” by Prentiss Riddle (@pzriddle) of Austin, Texas, posted on April 1, 2008. It’s a line we should all live by.

Why don’t we ask ourselves, every day, whether the news reports we’re reading, listening to and watching are trustworthy? The fact that most of us don’t is a vestige of the bygone era when we used to watch the late “Uncle” Walter Cronkite—called the most trusted person in America before he retired as CBS Evening News’s anchor in 1981—deliver the headlines. It’s a vestige of a time when we simply sat back and consumed our media.

At the risk of repeating this too often, let me say again: We can no longer afford to be passive consumers. In this chapter, we’ll look at the core principles for turning mere consumption into active learning.

Even those of us who spend a good deal of our time creating media, as I do, are still consumers as well. In fact, we are and always will be more consumers than creators.

Principles of Media Consumption

The principles presented in this chapter stem mostly from common sense; they involve the exercise of our inherent capacity for skepticism, judgment, free thinking, questioning and understanding. The tactics, tools and techniques we use to achieve this goals– blog commenting systems, for example—change with sometimes surprising speed, but these principles are fairly static. Essentially, they add up to something that we don’t do enough of today: critical thinking.

The following sections look closely at the five principles of media consumption. Some of what this chapter covers may not be news to you, but in context it strikes me as worth saying. At the end of the chapter, I’ll step back and consider the more philosophical question of how we can persuade ourselves to, as a smart media critic has written, “take a deep breath” as we read, watch and listen to the news. The next chapter will present some ways to apply these ideas to your daily media intake.

5 thoughts on “2.0 Chapter 2: Becoming an Active User: Principles”

  1. “The tactics, tools and techniques we use to achieve this goals– blog commenting systems, for example—change with sometimes surprising speed, but these principles are fairly static.”

    Shouldn’t that be “. . . to achieve these goals- . . . “?

  2. To me, approaching media literacy from a media consumption view point is a bit like taking an economic stand point as a priority. Somehow, we usually have tendency to define many things from economic definitions. Maybe, this is media literacy for capitalist societies. I wonder if media literacy differs from one ideology to another.

  3. Reading that most of the world has lost their ability to “think critically” about the news, and in media, does not come to me as a surprise. I react just like the masses, who scroll through their news apps and social media just for entertainment and new knowledge, just to forget what I read not even a minute ago. Of course I am able to remember major news incidents, and can recognize a memorable meme or news article that I read last week or scrolled past a couple days ago, but the vast majority of what I see on Twitter and Instagram turns to mush inside of my memory. I don’t think that this is a lack of common sense, but rather an untrained attention span, and an ignorance towards media literacy. I do believe we, as a society, need to start thinking more critically of what we our consuming in the media. Especially during this “fake news” epidemic that seems to be plaguing the mass media today. Taking the time to evaluate what we just saw or read can easily help us understand and connect to what is going on in the world. Being able to understand today’s media can also help pass valuable information on to others who haven’t seen the news. This can also help to inform and stay aware of what is real and what is fake news. Maybe then we can end this “fake news” epidemic.

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