What is the New Media Literacy?

Al Jazeera Home PageAfter I wrote a Twitter recommendation for the “Empire” program on Al Jazeera, a friend wrote to ask my perspective about being interviewed on Al Jazeera.

An organization she works for has turned down interview requests out of concern for the cable news provider’s reputation in the U.S.

In the new media ecosystem, how do we determine whom we trust? How do we confirm the reliability of the information we’re seeing and hearing?

Dan Gillmor addresses this concisely and well in Mediactive.

We need to be media literate, he says. We develop literacy by participating in the conversation, learning how media content is created and creating content ourselves.

Lest that sounds complicated, it’s not. It’s as easy as using Twitter, replying to blog posts, commenting on news stories. It’s posting your own content; a photo of a community event or a story about a local activity, for example.

When we do this, we learn the constraints and strengths of the medium. We learn to sort through the information and put it into a narrative. We learn what interests people, all of which informs our literacy. It’s relatively painless and cost-free.

It’s about participating and sharing in the new media ecosystem. That will be a measure of responsible citizenship, I think.

My suggestion to my friend was to encourage her colleagues to watch Al Jazeera, compare its coverage to other information sources (some U.S. cable news networks carried the Al Jazeera live feed from Egypt, which is a strong endorsement), and decide for themselves. The old way is to passively receive information from others. The new way is to participate, develop skills, think critically and judge for ourselves.

What counsel would you offer?

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