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Media Literacy

Innovations in the computer and mobile phone industries have caused a significant challenge to the process of controlling information dissemination. Due to the advanced possibilities of information exchange, everyone is capable of telling a story whether through photography or writing . The increased visibility is a result of technological development, which has played a pivotal role in simplifying the life for the present and future generations. Despite the advantages of modern technologies used in communication, there is much concern about the amount of ‘fake news’ introduced by the people who lack the appropriate media literacy. For example, modern mobile phone applications, such as Twitter, have presented an opportunity for everyone to act as a reporter. According to Berry (2013), mobile applications have been effective in enhancing the real-time communication and eliminating its geographical barriers. However, people raise much concern regarding the risks of increased access to ‘fake news’ that is disseminated by media illiterate people. This current paper discusses the types of critical theory that taught in the faculty of media studies. However, it also suggests that the teachers should expose their students to more pragmatic material and provide them information about objectivity in communication.

Media practitioners often chose the critical approach in communication according to the several intellectual movements such as  critical theory and the British cultural studies. The term critical is understood with reference to the social criticism that resulted from the scientific advancements and industrialization during the 19th century . Media practitioners train their social criticism skills in order to be capable of using scientific approach to solve the social problems with an aim of change. As a media practitioner, one needs to demonstrate competence in intercultural communication in order to be able to interact with people from different cultural backgrounds in an acceptable way. In addition, media students need proper training on ideological representations and ideological differences that occur within the media. It is important to note that there is a strong relationship between the media, power, and the ability to maintain social order.

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Communication is regarded as a central operation of the democratic community, which views the media and the fourth estate as the mirrors to the related population. An ideal society should be capable of connecting people, which needs to ensure that it is difficult to meet people socialized in the given community without occurrence of effective communication. Communication provides that people are liberated from the strain caused by different events so that they can coexist in a society, which is not ignorant to the surroundings. Regardless of cultural differences, effective communication facilitates interactions and peaceful coexistence. It is notwithstanding the fact that the members of various cultural groups have different language communities. The given differences explain the idea behind formation of the national and international languages that target to facilitate commerce and general interactions. Therefore, it is possible to regard the language as the main aspect of culture in any given cultural group.

When criticizing the given culture, it is necessary to review two main considerations. First, communication should be regarded as a pillar of a society. The reason is that it helps to hold the people together. Second, Hearns-Branaman (2015) stated that communication should be regarded as a fundamental condition for a working democracy.  However, its  role as an inevitable requirement for a working democracy is only achievable if the media plays its role of reporting events as they occur. Media students must receive education about the essence of true reporting in order to be able to reflect clearly the events as they occur in the society. There is a heavy reliance on the media for timely updates connected with the occurrences as was the case with the final United States’ Presidential elections. The events of the corresponding magnitude often attract much attention of people interested in various forms of media and the related updates of the revealed data. Since people are quick to interpret every detail presented in the media, it is a great offence to provide misleading information to the public because such cases can interfere with a media house’s credibility as a reliable news source.

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Berry (2013) observed that pragmatists have always expressed criticism regarding the atomistic perception of the individual that overlooked the essence of collectivity based on the assertion that it was incompatible with democratic ideas. The rapid societal growth and industrialization resulted into the creation of a ‘public’ that was highly disorganized and lacked the capacity of identifying itself. The critical theory supports that idea that the machine age occurred due to industrialization that destroyed the small communities, which characterized the past but failed to create the perfect society . It is important to involve the media in the process of  the machine age development in order to facilitate the realization of the democratic way of life. Pragmatics states that technological innovations have the capacity to boost the development of mutual sympathy and creation of a rational public opinion. The media plays a vital role in spreading public opinion revealing the believes of people and ensuring that compliance to the public opinion is supported by those who are opposed to it and regarded as deviants.

The theory of mass culture suggests that individuals are illusions not only due to standardization of the production processes. The theory asserts that it is possible to tolerate people if their identification with the general community is not questionable. It means that the self that is inherent in an individual is largely reliant on the overall society. Therefore, the need to accept universally the modes of behavior is one of the main reasons for which the media and the related practitioners are crucial to the society.

As the gate keepers and agenda setters, media practitioners should obtain extensive education on objectivity as a key requirements and determinant of the reliable media. The training on the critical theory alone is regarded as ineffective in producing reliable and dependable media practitioners. The rising visibility provided by innovation has presented the need for the media to perform more tasks than just report news within the required deadline. Due to the corresponding visibility the students exceed the level of traditional learning where they basically receive education on how to write neutral and straight news. Objectivity has become a key requirement that safeguards against dissemination of false information that can erode company’s reputation or even cause a crisis. Media students are currently expected to show competence in the use of social media, writing investigative news reports in addition to exploring point-of-view journalism.

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Traditionally, schools of journalism focus on teaching, which people popularly regard as opinion journalism. For example, it included educating the students how to write editorials. It is necessary to provide differently the given teaching due to the changes in the present society because the perspective journalism that exists today is greater than that of the past. It is also necessary to consider the fact that the forms of media used to disseminate information have increased. Therefore, the learners should demonstrate competence in communicating through all available forms of media.

The new journalism is highly personal with a focus on transparency without much interest in objectivity. There is a trend in journalistic training that attempts to train the students on derivation of conclusions and interpretations. Such training is a threat to the requirement of objectivity regarded as the ideal in journalism. Instead, the students should receive the extensive training on objectivity regarded among the main principles of the responsible journalism. Media practitioners who used to serve in the traditional process adhere to the objectivity requirement of reporting the facts while avoiding interpretation or expressing their personal opinions . Moreover, objectivity should not be regarded as perfect neutrality and should imply that interpretations are unacceptable. It rather reflects ones willingness to apply objective methods in testing and making interpretations that eliminate inaccuracies and biases. The journalists can remain objective while interpreting occurrences and corresponding perspectives. The given case is similar to that with scientists who maintain objectivity even when they apply different methods in testing their hypothesis about the given phenomenon. It is important to train the journalists or media students on objectivity so that they are able to demonstrate competence in maintaining an objective stance even when they interpret events and provide their conclusions.

Any failure to train the media students on the given issue may incline them to the traditional understanding of the matter, hence limiting the scope of their work as journalists. The traditional definition of objectivity is a wrong model that caused numerous limitations regarding the issue how journalists should do their work. It is vital to understand the journalism as an interpretative profession that requires much competence in providing right interpretation of events. However, failure to focus on teaching objectivity to the media students makes them misguided regarding many forms of their profession, such as point-of-view journalism. The schools of media studies should deviate from the perception that educating their students on perspectival journalism leads to teaching journalism that lacks required standards. Media students should be taught objectivity so that they can demonstrate competence in presenting well-argued facts and provide possibility for expressing counter arguments.

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Ethical guidelines should be developed to target specific forms of journalism. The advancement of interactive online media shows that journalism is not monolithic. Responsible journalism follows the general principles, such as editorial independence, truth-telling, accuracy, and objectivity. In addition to presenting these rules in journalistic books, it is necessary that the learners obtain sufficient education regarding adherence to them so that the emergence of new media forms does not pose any threat to the afore-mentioned requirement. Moreover, it is necessary to provide the teaching on media studies with a clear knowledge that the aims and norms of various journalistic practices often vary. For example, there is a difference between the aims and norms of column writing as compared to those of satirical journalism.

The increased visibility has also increased the need for students to be exposed to pragmatic material. Pragmatics refers to the study of language with regards to the users, their choices, and the challenges they encounter when using language for the social interactions. In addition, it views the study of language in respect to the impacts of the language users on others who participate in the communication act. Generally, pragmatic refers to the study of communication as an act that occurs in a sociocultural context. It is important to note that communication does not only entail speech but also involves the aspects such as greetings, making requests among others.

Media students should be capable of engaging in various types of discourse and sustaining their communication events even in complex speech occasions. It is important to understand pragmatics as an interpersonal rhetoric that enables media practitioners to establish and sustain interpersonal relationships in a mutually acceptable manner. Reviewing the issue of competence in a second language, the speaker’s level should entail a look into pragmatics as its main determinant. The reason is that the language competence is generally categorized as organizational and pragmatic competence, hence ensuring that pragmatics is an indispensable aspect that media students should learn. Pragmatic competence of media students should be analyzed considering illocutionary or sociolinguistic competence. Regarding the first issue, media studies instructors should focus on imparting knowledge of the communicative actions and how the students should execute them. When teaching sociolinguistic competence, the instructors should be concerned about learner’s ability to use language competently with respect to the corresponding context. On the other hand, sociolinguistic competence among media students is vital as it enables them to select communicative acts and apply the strategies in accordance to the prevailing status of the conversational contract.

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Pragmatic competence is a vital requirement in the media studies due to the fact that the media practitioners use language in different contexts when they interact with the members of various communities and cultural groups. The teachers should be persistent while teaching the students about the aspects of pragmatics, which will enable them to communicate in the current society, where the world has become a global village. Although there are shared cultures in this village, there is still an overwhelming need for media students to make correct choices of language and other communicative acts in accordance to the target audience.

In conclusion, media schools have the responsibility of providing the necessary training to the students ensuring that they graduate as responsible media practitioners. The increased visibility that has resulted from innovative developments in the computer and mobile phone industries has increased the need for responsible journalism. In the society, where anyone can access necessary information without much control, it is necessary to have responsible media practitioners that can serve as an example and are able to guide people on the principles of communication. Faculty members should incorporate teachings on pragmatics and objectivity to ensure that the learners are well equipped with the necessary knowledge that will enable them to behave responsibly and ethically.