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Opening Monologue: The Media Literacy Show

The following is a transcript of the opening monologue I do at the top of each show on WGN Radio. My show, the Saturday Night Special, is a single-topic program on which I discuss one topic all night. This week, I discussed media literacy.

For the longest time, the word “literacy” referred simply to being able to read and write, and , as with many words, it’s evolved to be an add-on to things like digital literacy– that is, skills used in performing tasks on digital platforms and in digital environments.. Or, take political literacy– the ability to understand and/or participate in political activities– and, of course, media literacy– the ability to think critically about different types of media AND the information conveyed via these avenues.

To define it immediately points to its inherently tough-to-navigate terrain: it’s both the act of thinking critically about each different type and act of media, as well as thinking critically about what is being said through them and why, and how.

To be sure, that’s no small task. It means almost simultaneously and constantly considering all the platforms on which we receive information– blogs, social media platforms, magazines, books, video games, music, websites, print ads, billboards, radio, podcasts, online ads, and then fold in news organizations and their print, mobile, desktop, and social media paths to sharing content and, then put all that in context, and, well, it’s a lot.

Given the crowding, it’s more important than ever to practice and continue to hone our media literacy skills so we can apply them roundly to the many platforms on which we receive information. Our ability to access, find, analyze, consider, contemplate, evaluate and sometimes even create different types of media– both in platform and content– is an essential skill in the modern world.

The trouble is, the messages are getting more and more complex, and, thus, harder and harder to decipher. Then, take into account how history, access and power structures factor into media literacy and add in the complications of our quote unquote fake news era in which some deliberately skew content to suit an agenda, in which ad companies spend millions to better understand how to play on our emotions and aspirations with colors, images and words, and a whole slew of other things, and, well… there’s a lot to dig into here.

But, nonetheless, that’s our aim tonight, to examine many of the issues contained within this notion of media literacy. We’ll take a look at ways to step up our own critical thinking skills, understand how messages shape our culture and society, more consciously recognize what some storytellers want us to do or believe, as well as become more aware of things like bias, spin, and persuasion.

I’m Amy Guth and that’s all coming up tonight on the Saturday Night Special on 720 WGN.

(Break for show opener music)

Tonight I’m exploring the notion of media literacy– the ability to analyze the merits and faults in each of the different types of media AND within the information conveyed via these avenues. Why does that matter? Well, simply put, a lot of information comes at us in a given day, and when the stakes are as high as they have been recently– with contentious elections, international relations influenced by a tweet, outright accusations of fake news, our self-esteem under siege by the cosmetics and garment industries, old school gender roles reinforced in even ads for laundry detergent — well, we need to get it together.

To help us do that, and participate in tonight’s discussion, we’ll be joined by: Amanda Warner, creator of the fake news simulation game “fake it to make it”, Ashlee Humphries, professor at Northwestern’s Medill school of journalism, Erika Hobbs, the Chicago program manager of the New Literacy Project, and Michelle Lipkin, executive director of the National Association for Media Literacy Education.

We’ll be right back to get the conversation underway, on 720-WGN.

(Listen to full show)