For the past few months, LAMP Executive Director D.C. Vito and Education Director Dr. Katherine Fry have been meeting with journalists from around the world, as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program of the U.S. Department of State. Participating journalists come from Africa, the Middle East, South America, Eastern Europe, Asia and Central America, and face challenging political climates for transmitting and gathering news. However, many of these journalists are fighting the status quo of an extremely restricted press. Voices that have long been silenced and which can finally now be heard—like those of the women from Afghanistan beginning their own radio station—are significant contributors to growing democracies.
But a move towards free expression places new demands on cultures which have grown accustomed to a very narrow above-ground press. News literacy is perhaps more important than ever as new governments take shape, and that’s where The LAMP comes in. Dr. Fry is an expert in the way people engage with news media, which has informed the curricula she wrote for The LAMP’s News and Reporting Track as well as her Check Out The News! LAMPlit Resource Guide.
The first meeting was with Afghan journalists, who spoke about the dangers they face as journalists because their fellow media professionals are frequently considered combat targets. (They also asked the group to imagine how much more difficult this must be for the female journalists.) They understood the need for a free press, and more importantly, media literacy, due to the heavy amount of propaganda in newspapers and on the airwaves. The visiting journalists were clear that their ability to report what actually happens in their communities is vital to progress in Afghanistan. At one point, one of the journalists broke from the topic and asked the group to hear him out as he detailed some of the limitations journalists face in his country. He said he recognized this wasn’t the proper forum for the subject, but he didn’t feel he’d have many more opportunities to discuss these issues in an open forum.
Another meeting consisted of over thirty journalists from a variety of countries. We showed them our LAMPlatoon videos and the campaign that we’re waging to teach youth and parents and educators to actively talk back to the media corporations by using their own product against them. This was very popular amongst the journalists. They really liked the defiant and inquisitive aspects of LAMPlatoon, and also recognized that we have a huge, monstrous task on our hands. At one point, a journalist asked if we believed that media literacy could be practiced in a society that didn’t have a free press or media. We responded that we think it could, but that it would definitely have to be handled differently as the risks and dangers were ever more prevalent. However, we also pointed out the limitations of freedom in our own press and media, considering media company consolidation—we went from fifty companies holding ninety percent of our media in 1983, down to six companies in 2011. How free and diverse are our perspectives when ninety percent of the media are produced by these massive corporations whose only goal is to maximize profit?
By meeting with journalists from around the world, The LAMP is leading the way to build a critical mass of engaged media users. You can click here to support this work, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how you can get involved.
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