News & Insights

27/09/2018

We need to talk about media literacyby Suzanne Dwyer

© AdobeStock / kebox 

While the financial services industry has been discussing Australians’ lack of financial literacy for years, a new national challenge has been called out—media literacy.
 
The ABC last week launched the nation’s first Media Literacy Week, although noting this problem is far from confined to Australia. 
 
Media literacy has always been important, of course, and may have previously been defined as being well read and considering a broad range of viewpoints.
 
Ironically, now when we have more sources of information than ever, it appears that being media literate is harder than it has ever been.  
 
A two-day conference in Hobart to launch Media Literacy Week highlighted issues stemming from “information disorder” —commonly referred to as fake news.  The ABC reported from the conference that managing the problem will take “50 years”.  This suggests that a whole generation will potentially be both the agents and the casualties of misinformation. 
 
Key messages from the conference included the importance of people thinking more critically about content and pausing before sharing information, taking the time to consider the source, if it is trusted, and the intention of the content.   But, as we know, what is a trusted source for one may be far from trusted by another.   So, what will it take to improve Australians’ media literacy?
 
Government and the financial services industry well know how difficult it continues to be to improve Australians’ financial literary—even when people stand to directly benefit by improving their understanding of such things as saving, superannuation and investment.  
 
Will Australians see any benefit to them of thinking more critically about content and taking more time to consider messages?
 
Even if Australians are engaged in improving their media literacy, with so many streams, and so many ‘extremes’ of content, is it possible?
 
How does one go about forming an objective view on their own viewpoints?
 
These are very perplexing questions, and maybe that is the point; asking these types of questions may start to cause a shift in thinking.   Certainly, writing a blog on this topic is a cause for reflection!
 
The call to media literacy is a call for deliberation and contemplation.  These are skills at which human beings are naturally adept but which we seem to have forgotten the value of.   They are increasingly the antithesis of how we now consume media.   
 
No doubt, some may simply think the challenge of media literacy has become all too hard and ask, at the end of the day, “Why should I care?”
 
My answer:  remember the ‘me’ in media.
 
In its essence, media literacy helps us get closer to the truth, and truth is important to us all—for the functioning of our own lives, our local communities and our democracy. 

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