By Lindsey Wilson
This past December, I completed my degree in public relations and journalism at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, ending 3.5 of the best years I could ask for. At GU, I was able to watch one of the best men’s basketball teams in the country in person, write for the student-run newspaper and make friends from all corners of the country. The classes I took set me up for success professionally and personally, most notably, one of my final courses I took while at GU, Media and Democracy.
For our final paper of the year, we were asked to write a 500-word research paper on a topic we covered in class over the course of the semester. One of the great things about being in a 400-level college course is the sense of freedom, and our paper had no guidelines, besides a 500-word minimum and personal research on the chosen topic.
In this class we learned about all of the ins-and-outs of media and democracy, including extensive lectures on hate speech, media funding and media literacy. While I found all of these topics extremely important to learn about, something about media literacy stuck out to me. I have seen so many of my friends and family fall for misinformation spread online in a number of ways, political and nonpolitical. The thesis of my final paper of my undergraduate degree was I don’t think that there can be any change to the way things are going until there are required units in high school English classes discussing the topic of media literacy. Many of the struggles that come along with media literacy I found through my research can be solved by teaching the topic from a young age.
The traditional way of finding “personal research” in this professor’s classes was usually through an interview with a professional in the field you’re researching, but I had a different idea. I felt as if it was not the professional opinions that I needed in this paper, but rather the people who I see on my social media pages every day, my friends and family.
I created a questionnaire on Google for my friends and family to help with, expecting to only get a few responses, but the response was positively overwhelming. I received 50 responses over the course of a few hours, with many people voicing their knowledge on media literacy along with concerns about teaching it in a classroom setting, including how it would be funded and implicit bias that may work its way into the lesson. After I turned in my paper (not to toot my own horn, but I received an A on the project!), I knew that this cause was something that I wanted to continue fighting for.
While writing my paper, I came across this organization that you all have probably heard of – Media Literacy Now. While digging into MLN, I grew to admire their drive to implement media literacy into U.S. schools, and I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. Just two weeks after my virtual end to college, I reached out to founder Erin McNeill to see if there was any way I could help. One blog post later (with many more planned) I have grown even fonder of the organization.
Ms. McNeill and I discussed my paper over our phone call, and we both agreed that my research would be a great topic to bring to MLN. Since then, I have created a new questionnaire, and we hope to get a wide variety of responses from people all around the country covering the topics of media literacy, and how the average American would feel about implementing it into schools.
If you are willing to participate, you can find the questionnaire here. We want to get a better look at media literacy through the eyes of a diverse audience, and with your help, we will be able to do so. All answers are anonymous, meaning no emails will be attached to the answers and we will not be tracking any IP addresses. This survey is solely for personal research conducted by me and the team at MLN. In the coming weeks, we will publish the data that we gathered to open a wider conversation about media literacy.
Lindsey Wilson is a recent graduate of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. She currently resides in Washington state, where she will soon begin her career in management in Seattle. In the meantime, she enjoys cooking new meals and spending time her dog, Pogo.
See her previous post here: My strategy for helping my grandmother identify phishing schemes.