Part Two

Understand how media works

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In a media-saturated society, it’s important to know how digital media works. For one thing, we are all media creators to some degree, as we post on social media, share photos and videos, comment, write blog posts, and so much more. Moreover, solid communication skills are critically important for social and economic participation — and we’re not just talking about the reading and writing of the past.

  • Instagram


  • Twitter


  • Facebook


  • YouTube


  • Yelp


  • LinkedIn


  • Medium


  • WhatsApp


Every journalism student we teach is required to create and operate a blog, because it is an ideal entry point into serious media creation. Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube, and all of the other platforms are media-creation havens, to be sure, but they’re owned by someone else. A blog that you control is yours alone. It combines text, images, video, audio, and other formats, and it is by nature conversational. It is also a digital medium that adapts easily over time. Over a lifetime, most of us will pick up many kinds of newer media forms, or re-adapt older ones; even though they’re less common than they used to be as centralized social media services have expanded, personal blogs are a lot like old-fashioned diaries, with the major exception that most blogs are intended to be public.

Media-creation skills have become part of the educational process for many children in the developed world
(less so for other children).

In the U.S. and other economically advanced nations, most children begin engaging with digital technology at an early age and are avid media creators by the time they are teenagers. However, some of the most active users of digital technology are older people who have learned how to use it and who bring other, crucial skills — most notably critical thinking and an appreciation of nuance — to the table.

Young or old, we’ve all learned how to snap a photo with a mobile phone, but it’s just as important to know all the possibilities of what you can do with that picture and to understand how it fits into a larger media ecosystem. This means, among other things, understanding how the internet works (it’s an amazing collection of technologies and rules of the road), not just how to use it.

Also, it’s essential to grasp the ways people use media to persuade and manipulate — that is, how media creators, and the people who spread what they create, push our logical and emotional buttons.

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Advertising and public relations have been doing this for a long time. In the era of social media, where highly targeted campaigns can amplify everything from a presidential lie to Russian trolling, we need to apply self-defense techniques.