Becoming media literate: professor encourages students, community to think critically about media

Laura Roselle pushes media literacy at conclusion of Media and Politics Conference at Elon University

MARCH 30, 2011

Marlena Chertock

Laura Roselle administered the final session for the Media and Politics Conference in McKinnon Hall in Moseley Student Center at 9:30 to 11 a.m. on March 30. Photo by Marlena Chertock.

Practicing media literacy is everyone’s responsibility, according to political science professor Laura Roselle.

Roselle gave a wrapping up session at 9:30 to 11 a.m. in McKinnon Hall in the Moseley Student Center at Elon University on March 30 at the conclusion of the two-day Media and Politics Conference. She focused on where to go from the conference.

“I don’t want people to attend the conference, have great discussions and then forget about it,” she said. “Usually, that’s what happens. I want to keep the momentum going.”

There is a rush of information and false information in today’s world and media and we need to try to sort it out, she said.

Roselle wanted to get students, faculty and the community thinking about how to be literate in media, she said.

“Everyone needs to understand our new media landscape,” she said. “There’s so much information. It can be so overwhelming.”

Students, faculty and people in the country need to be thinking critically about the information they receive and analyzing media, according to Roselle.

“You can’t let news be a tidal wave of information that you’ll just soak in and not think critically about,” she said. “Media literacy is our responsibility. Frank Sesno said it last night, it’s our responsibility to do this.”

She asked why people should care about news and being informed.

There are laws and regulations in place and being enacted that affect everyday life for people, she said.

People need information to make a vote and make decisions, she said.

“If they’re informed, they know that,” she said. “If they have access to the media they make informed decisions in the democratic process. If they don’t, they’re leaving their voice out and allowing others to make decisions that affect them.”

Graphic by Marlena Chertock.

There are several “pieces of the puzzle that you need to put together in terms of thinking critically,” Roselle said.

People can’t trust just one source, according to Roselle.

“This goes for journalists writing stories and quoting people and everyone consuming information as well,” she said.

Media professionals need to be careful how they speak about events and news during crises and unfolding events, she said. A reporter needs to make sure the audience knows he or she  doesn’t know everything and that information is not definitive, she said. Reporters should give the audience contacts, context and enough information but don’t over-promise or give false information.

Graphic by Marlena Chertock.

You can’t include every bit of information in a story, Roselle said. Stories are structured in a particular way or angle to focus on a particular issue.

“We need to pay attention to that,” she said. “To how a story is framed, where it is coming from and who it is coming from.”

Where people go to get their news makes a difference, according to Roselle. It affects the kind of information they receive and the level of accuracy.

The nexus between politics and communications has always fascinated Roselle, she said.

“I’ve always been fascinated with political communication,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in how leaders communicate messages, how audiences get information about politics so they can participate in a democracy, how do you choose who to vote for if you have no information.”

Without communication there isn’t politics, she said. It is extremely important to understand the media and media in politics, she said.

Roselle hopes the conference will encourage students and faculty to start ongoing projects about media literacy, understanding government information and understanding media, she said.


Roselle on her passion for political science and political communications